5 Things SLPs Do That Discourage AAC Use

October 28, 2012 by - 3 Comments

5 Things SLPs Do That Discourage AAC Use
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We mean well. We really do. But sometimes the things we say or do, and even the things we DON’T say/do have a negative impact on our long-range goal of improving AAC outcomes. Here are some of the things we’ve observed that can discourage AAC use.

  1. Recommending AAC without giving stakeholders a solid, evidence-based rationale creates a shaky foundation. People aren’t going to put forth effort to implement something they don’t believe in, and they won’t believe in it until we make a compelling, well-supported argument. ‘Rules that aren’t understood are the first to be broken.’


  1. It’s easy to forget that, in some ways, the AAC user is learning a whole new language. What would it take US to learn a new language? Well, for starters, we’d want to be immersed into an environment with competent speakers of that language. Hearing the language that we’re trying to learn makes sense. For people learning AAC, that means we have to ‘speak AAC’ to them when we’re giving information, directions, telling stories, clarifying, commenting, explaining, etc. We consider aided language input to be a pivotal strategy than all interventionists should use as often as possible.

 5 Things SLPs Do That Discourage AAC Use

  1. A focus on assessment rather than instruction may not be what the learner needs. Too much quizzing and the learner will give up.. “Joey, show me ___.” “Where’s the ___?” “Can you find ___?” “Point to ___.” Ugh! We’d stop communicating, too!


  1. Responding too quickly can impair both learning and independence. Our AAC friends need a lot of pause time to process the language they see/hear, then organize and execute their responses. For most, that takes at least 5-10 seconds, and some need much longer than that. When we jump in to repeat, rephrase, or prompt, we may be stepping in the path of their learning and independence


  1. Failing to understand what the communicator really wants to talk about is the surest way we know to discourage AAC use. As SLPs, we may want the learner to make choices or comment or ask a question. But if the communicator really wants to connect by telling stories, for example, then we’d try to provide some visual scene displays or other message layouts to allow them to talk about things going on in their past/present lives. If the communication aid doesn’t say what the AAC user wants to communicate, it’s likely that they’ll be slow to use it in real-life situations.

No one is perfect, and we shouldn’t expect ourselves to be flawless professionals who run our personal best race each and every time we work with an AAC client. But to be the kind of professionals we each strive to be, it helps to stop and reflect on things we’re doing to see where we can improve. Sometimes it’s the little things, like a few more seconds of pause time or asking fewer questions. Little changes, big impact.

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This post was written by Carole Zangari


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