More PrAACtical AAC Goals That Matter

April 23, 2015 by - Leave your thoughts

More PrAACtical AAC Goals That Matter
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While we may play a variety of roles, a commonality among those of us on teams serving individuals with AAC needs is that we often struggle with developing goals that are meaningful. Let’s work together to develop a list of potential goals that we can reflect on as we work with our clients and their families on a plan for becoming more competent communicators. There are two sections in this post: Qualifiers (for information applying to all goals) and Goal Areas (for actual goals). This is not meant to be a comprehensive list but rather a starting point for a collaborative document. Please join the effort by adding goals in the comment area below or reaching out using our contact form.


  1. Each goal can be prefaced with a description of the communicator’s AAC system or the elements of that system can be named.
  2. Terms used in this document
    1. Prestored Message: An utterance that was pre-assembled by someone other than the communicator; Can be on a voice-output device or no-tech communication aid. For example, a single button or cell that says “Hi, how are you?’” or “I want” or “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the….”
    2. Sentence: An utterance assembled by the communicator that has at least 2 words For example, a sentence put together by the communicator with these single words: “I” + “want” + “more” + “music.”
    3. Contextually-appropriate: Conceptually related to the activity or topic at hand
    4. Meaningful context: Event, exchange, or activity in which the communicator sees relevance, value, or meaning
    5. Linguistically-based AAC/communication aid: A no-tech, low-tech, or high-tech communication tool which has the following characteristics: a) more single word buttons/cells that longer message buttons/cells; b) rich pool of core words; c)ability to modify word forms; d) organized in a fashion that allows for further language growth.
  3. If independence is not the target level of performance, specify the level of assistance (e.g., partial prompts; full assistance).
  4. Specify the context to ensure appropriate implementation (e.g., in meaningful contexts; in daily living routines; in regular classroom activities).
  5. Specify the level, such as in structured tasks, in unstructured activities, or natural conversation.
  6. Specify the frequency to ensure adequate implementation (e.g., at least once per activity; 8-10 times/day; in every class period)
  7. Criterion can be specified based on assessment or baseline data.
  8. Consider some goals that focus on generalizing skills that the learner uses in structured situations (such as a defined therapy task) to a variety of more functional activities throughout the day.
  9. Consider embedding instructional strategies, such as aided language input, into the goal.


Expressive Language

Using Prestored Messages (i.e., multiple words/sentences on one cell/button; E.g., a button with “I want music”)

  1. Request a turn using prestored messages (e.g., “Hey, don’t forget me! I want a turn.”)
  2. Request desired objects/actions using prestored messages (e.g., “Turn the page, please” or “I want more”)
  3. Protest (or reject) undesired objects/actions/activities using prestored messages (e.g., “No, thank you. I don’t like that.”)
  4. Gain attention using prestored messages (e.g., “Excuse me. I need you for a minute.” “Look at this!”)
  5. Express a repeated line in a book, chant, or song (e.g., “All around the town!” “Clean up, clean up, everybody, everywhere”)
  6. Use greetings appropriate to the context (e.g., “Hello” “See you later”)
  7. Show off (e.g., “Look at me!” “I made it.”)
  8. Make a contextually-appropriate comment (e.g., “That’s just crazy!”)
  9. Tell about a prior or planned event (e.g., “We played Hungry Hippos in speech today!” “Jenna’s class is having a pizza party on Friday.”)
  10. Tell a personal narrative (Note: this can be prestored in one cell/button or distributed across several)
  11. Retell a story/event (Note: Can be prestored in 1 cell/button or distributed across several)
  12. Ask a question (e.g., “What’s that?” “What do you think?”)
  13. Express agreement or disagreement (e.g., “That’s right.” “I don’t think so.”)
  14. Give directions (e.g., “Red Group, line up” “Put it in my backpack, please.”)
  15. Use interjections (e.g., “Awesome job!” “No way!” “Wow! That’s crazy!”
  16. Use introductory messages (e.g., “Hi. How are you?” “Good to see you”)
  17. Use continuers (e.g., “I see.” “Hmm. That’s interesting.” “Okay”)
  18. Using termination messages (e.g. “Okay, see you later.” “I gotta run.”)
  19. Provide partner instructions (e.g., “It’s going to take me a minute. Please hang with me.” “Say each word as I point to it. If you’re wrong, I’ll shake my head and show you the right one.” “Ask me yes/no questions.”
  20. Advocate by giving feedback to partners (e.g., “That was helpful/unkind/unnecessary.” “Check my IEP.”)

Using Single Words That Can be Combined into Sentences (i.e., 1 word per cell/button; e.g. I+want+music=”I want music”)

  1. Given an array of preferred activities/objects/people, request a desired activity/object
  2. Given a field of ___ to ___  options (some preferred, some non-preferred), choose a preferred object/activity/person
  3. Request recurrence with single words (e.g., “more,” “again”) or short sentences (e.g., “more tickle,” “Read it again.”)
  4. Use short sentences to request preferred objects, actions/activities, or people
  5. Use short sentences to request help or attention
  6. Use short sentences to protest or reject undesired objects, actions/activities, or people
  7. Use contextually-appropriate action + object sentences (or agent + action + object sentences)
  8. Use contextually-appropriate agent + action sentences
  9. Use contextually-appropriate action + modifier sentences
  10. Use contextually-appropriate descriptors/modifiers/attributes in sentences
  11. Use contextually-appropriate prepositions and locatives in sentences
  12. Use subject pronouns correctly (e.g., (I, you, we, it)
  13. Use object pronouns correctly (e.g., me, her, us, them)
  14. Use indefinite pronouns correctly (e.g., all, another, someone, anybody)
  15. Use time-related words(e.g., ‘yesterday’, ‘now’, ‘soon’, ‘later’)
  16. Ask  relevant ‘What’ questions or ‘What doing’ questions
  17. Ask relevant ‘Where’ questions
  18. Ask relevant ‘When’  questions
  19. Ask relevant ‘Why’ questions
  20. Ask relevant ‘How’ questions
  21. Request clarification (e.g., “Can you explain?”“Huh?” “What did you say?”)
  22. Ask relevant partner-focused questions (e.g., “What do you think?” “How was your weekend?” “What’s new?”)
  23. Use adjectives correctly to modify nouns based on color, size, amount, shape, and temperature (e.g., warm, tiny, bright, round)
  24. Use adjectives and adverbs correctly to modify nouns based/verbs on distance and time (e.g., far, sometimes, early, never, short, always, immediately)
  25. Respond to ‘What’ and ‘What doing’ questions with appropriate answers
  26. Respond to ‘Where’ questions with appropriate answers
  27. Respond to ‘When’ questions with appropriate answers
  28. Respond to ‘Why’ questions with appropriate answers
  29. Respond to ‘How’ questions with appropriate answers
  30. Respond to ‘yes/no’ questions to denote choice
  31. Respond to ‘yes/no’ questions to provide information
  32. Tell or retell a story with ____ number of critical elements
  33. Take several turns in a conversation
  34. Construct utterances about future events
  35. Construct utterances about current events
  36. Construct utterances about past events
  37. Use non-literal language (idioms, figurative language) appropriately
  38. Request an explanation or elaboration
  39. Use existing vocabulary to describe new word/concept
  40. Use at least __ new words per week
  41. Use correct morphological endings for verb conjugations and tenses (e.g., I am, you are; I am, I was)
  42. Use modal and auxiliary verbs (e.g., could, would, may, might) correctly
  43. Use words to indicate spatial locations (e.g., in, on, over, above) correctly
  44. Use words to indicated spatial relationships (e.g., with, next to, between, among ) correctly
  45. Use coordinating conjunctions (e.g., and, for, but, or) correctly
  46. Use subordinating conjunctions (e.g., because, while, though, since, after, although)correctly
  47. Initiate interaction
  48. Respond appropriately to partner-initiated communication
  49. Maintain conversations with acknowledgements (‘Cool,” “So interesting”)
  50. Maintain conversations by providing new information about the topic
  51. Re-direct the topic of conversation using cohesive messages (e.g., “That reminds me of…” “I forgot to tell you about…” “I remember…” “Another thing that…”)
  52. Use topic setters to alert partner of the topic/subject
  53. Terminate conversation using socially-appropriate language
  54. Complain or vent about a situation
  55. Use polite social forms (i.e, “please”, “thank you”)
  56. Compliment others about concrete attributes (e.g., “I like your hair.” “Nice dress”) or abstract characteristics (e.g., “You’re so nice!” “That was a smart thing to ask.”)
  57. Respond  to requests for clarification by rephrasing misunderstood messages
  58. Respond to requests for clarification by repeating misunderstood messages
  59. Tell appropriate jokes or humorous anecdotes in social interactions
  60. Provide relevant reasons and rationales
  61. Convince or persuade with logical reasoning
  62. Make predictions
  63. Offer alternative solutions to problems
  64. Use descriptive language to make connections to to ideas, self, and world
  65. Use evidence and background knowledge to make inferences
  66. Offer details that support a main point or idea
  67. Discuss similiarities and differences in situations, events, or passages
  68. Summarize main points from a passage or discussion
  69. When necessary, use core vocabulary to convey ideas for specific terms (e.g., “big, salty water” for ocean; “feeling of want to eat” for hungry)
  70. Share about problems or confide in a trusted individual

Operational & Strategic Competence

  1. Transport the aid/device when transitioning between activities or locations
  2. Use word prediction effectively
  3. Turn device on and off
  4. Get the aid/device when needed
  5. Charge device at the end of the day
  6. Ask for help when device does not work
  7. Adjust volume of device based on context
  8. Adjust rate of speech depending upon context
  9. Change voice depending upon listener and/or context
  10. Select or activate the desired message with fewer than _____ miss-hits
  11. Self-correct miss-hit OR Self-correct errors in targeting a message
  12. Navigate between main page and at least one other page
  13. Navigate between multiple pages
  14. Use function keys/buttons (e.g., speak all, clear) appropriately
  15. Suggest words to be added to fringe vocabulary page or add words to pages
  16. Use the most efficient communication strategy (e.g., single word buttons rather than spelling; word prediction rather than spelling the whole message)
  17. Use a communication method appropriate for the audience and message (e.g., communicating via sign to signers and using voice output for non-signers)
  18. Store files, presentations, or pre-programmed sequences
  19. Send messages to word processor or other programs
  20. Use SGD to access external devices (phone, email, text) for communication




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This post was written by Carole Zangari

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