Holiday Talk: AAC Conversations Using Partner-focused Questions
A great many AAC learners would love to be more actively involved in social conversations but may not have the skills to carry on a conversation. For some individuals, the use of pre-stored messages designed to get their partners talking is a great way take the pressure off and allow the AAC learner to be more actively involved in the conversation.
Partner-focused questions serve to get information, opinions, or feedback. By creating these and storing them as whole questions, the AAC learner has a relatively quick and easy means to drive the direction of the conversation. Here are some examples:
- How were your holidays?
- What did you get for Christmas/Hanukkah?
- What do you think?
- Where did you go over break?
- How’s your family?
- What’s going on with you?
In general, people love talking about themselves and questions like these are a great way to get the ball rolling or keeping it moving. If communicating is a challenge, it helps to have some quick ways to get your partner pick up some of the slack. Partner-focused questions do this without making the conversation one-sided or having the speaking partner be in control of the topic.
We love questions like these these for a few other reasons, too. First of all, it can change how the AAC learner is perceived by others. When someone asks us about ourselves and our experiences, we tend to view them in a rather positive light. It shows they are interested in us and that they are capable of communicating about things other than wants/needs and highly motivating topics. We perceive them as more socially competent and that can make people who are less familiar with AAC more comfortable in communicating with the people who express themselves using pictures or SGDs. The end result is that the speaking partners may be more willing to converse with the AAC learner, and may initiate social interactions with them more often. These added experiences are great for communication learning for the AAC user, and the social connectedness benefits both parties.
Furthermore, partner-focused questions offer a relatively low-stress way to engage. Many AAC learners have trouble accessing their communication knowledge and skills on a consistent basis. Tyler can use his AAC system to create short sentences, and engage in interaction with skilled, familiar partners under the right conditions. Under other conditions (like too many distractions or too little sleep), however, he still has the social interest in connecting with others but can’t use his AAC as effectively. Partner-focused questions reduce the pressure on Tyler and allow him to engage with a lesser degree of effort and concentration.
Do you use partner-focused questions with your AAC learners? Please share what works and what doesn’t. Thinking about trying out partner-focused questions for the first time? We’d love to hear about your experiences.
This post was written by Carole Zangari