“What’s Wrong?” AAC Messages for Negative Emotions and Feelings

June 16, 2015 by - Leave your thoughts

“What’s Wrong?” AAC Messages for Negative Emotions and Feelings
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Pain. Fear. Anger. Frustration

Parents and teachers frequently ask SLPs to help learners further develop the skill of being able to say what is troubling them. Those are skills worth developing, of course. But a first step may be to review the vocabulary and messages available to the learner and consider making some adjustments. It is fine to be able to say what is wrong, but it’s even better to be able to explain what happened and what kind of help you might need.  Here are some ideas for messages to consider.


  • Because…[I remembered a sad thing that happened; Something happened to me; I’m lonely; I miss someone; I was left out; Someone got hurt. Something else.]
  • It would help if…[add student’s preferred solution strategies


  • Because…[Something bad happened; I want to do something else; Someone hurt me; It’s unfair; I’m not sure why; Something else.]
  • I need…[Some time alone; Help getting calm again; Something to eat/drink; To go somewhere quiet; Someone to talk to; Something else.]


  • Because…[This is really hard/boring/stupid; It’s unfair; I already did this; To leave; It doesn’t make sense;Something unexpected happened; It’s babyish; Something else.]
  • I want to…[Have someone explain it to me; Do something easier/more interesting; Be alone; Get some help; Something else.]


  • I’ll tell you where. [In my body; In my feelings; Body parts]
  • I’ll tell you how much. [A little; A lot; More than you can imagine]
  • I’ll tell you why. [Someone said/did something; I fell/tripped; I’m sick; Had an accident; Something else.]
  • I’ll tell you when. [Just now; Before; A long time ago; The other day]


  • Because…[Something unexpected happened; Someone was mean; I don’t understand what’s happening; I saw/heard something scary; Something else.]
  • Can you…? [Explain it to me; Help me calm down; Call someone who knows me well; Give me a hug; Something else.]

One final thought: Qualitative rating scales can be a great addition to conversations distressing feelings. You can read more about them here.

Are there messages that have helped your AAC clients be able to communicate their needs when they experience negative feelings? We’d love to hear about them.

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This post was written by Carole Zangari

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