PrAACtical Perspectives: Randomness and AAC

April 13, 2017 by - Leave your thoughts

PrAACtical Perspectives: Randomness and AAC
A- A+

It’s a healthy sign when practitioners in any field examine their beliefs, reflect on their own practices, and revisit PrAACtical Perspectives: Randomness and AACpreviously held assumptions. In this post, veteran SLP Alicia Garcia challenges us to think about some important questions. Do we hold people who use AAC to standards that are different from their speaking peers? How does that impact them? What, if any, adjustments in our thinking should be made to help them flourish? It’s a great day for us to slow down and think through questions like these, and Alicia’s guest post helps us do just that.


The Curse of the Random Thought in AAC

Situation: Young verbal children playing in a sand pit

  • Child 1: My dad’s truck broke
  • Child 2: Oh… my mom has a blue car and she’s coming over later
  • Child 3: …  I had a big candy bar all by myself…

Communication is a messy process. If we look closely at conversational exchanges in verbal children, we’ll notice that sudden changes in topic, out-of-turn initiations, and seemingly unrelated messages are not uncommon. Quite the contrary,  these patterns seems to be the norm in natural, typical, incidental conversation.

We, adults, also change topics constantly and with no warning when we think, when we plan, and when we talk with family and close friends. Sudden topic changes are most times trivial and spontaneous indicators of real, authentic communication.

So … why is the standard so different when our nonverbal children express out of context messages with their devices?

Responses such as: “I don’t think he meant that”, “I think it was random” “Did you mean (insert OUR idea here)”? or plain ignoring are common whenever our children say words or phrases with their devices that partners perceive to be out of context. It seems OK to invalidate the communicative intent when we cannot make sense of it.

As voice output devices become more accessible to all our kids, it seems that now, more than ever, acknowledging our children’s messages and appreciating all twists and turns in their communication attempts is not only a matter of best practice; it is a matter of respect.


Alicia Garcia is the clinical lead SLP of the AAC Clinic at One Kids Place, a children’s treatment centre in northern Ontario. She has 25 years of experience in pediatric rehabilitation practice in private and public settings in the US and Canada. You can see previous posts by Alicia here

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Filed under: ,

Tagged With: ,

This post was written by Carole Zangari

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.