You Might be an AAC Therapist If…

April 18, 2014 by - 33 Comments

You Might be an AAC Therapist If…
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  • You peruse the dollar store muttering “What could I do with this?”
  • You squeal in delight when Amazon puts personal laminators on deep discount.
  • You find yourself wanting to point to symbols when you talk to friends and family.
  • You buy velcro if you see a good deal, even if you don’t need it.
  • You’ve seriously considered making a voodoo doll in the image of the insurance person who issued the most recent denial of coverage.
  • You have an Allen wrench at the bottom of your purse.
  • You have an un-natural fondness for clip art and Creative Commons.
  • You’d rather sit in a great conference presentation than go to see the latest movie.
  • You can think of a dozen ways to make page fluffers.
  • You’re so ‘over’ goals for making eye contact.
  • You’ve made friends with the guy who cuts Lexan at the home supply shop.
  • You think of the color yellow when you see the word ‘pronoun.’
  • You’ve made a social story or visual schedule for your significant other so they would know what to do when you were out of town.
  • You automatically pause for 5-15 seconds before repeating or rephrasing yourself.
  • Your ‘Dream Team’ includes an extraordinary SLP, educator, OT, PT, and rehab engineer. 
  • You’ve used telephone books, pool noodles, and empty binders for things they were never intended to do.
  • You dream of unlimited stores of 5 mil laminating film. The good stuff!
  • You make a beeline for the children’s section in any bookstore.
  • You find yourself getting a tad impatient with people who ‘just’ have artic, voice, or fluency issues. 
  • You’ve had a serious rant (or two or 50) at an IEP meeting.
  • You know at least 3 ways to modify the PPVT.
  • You secretly wish that the person who was impatient with your client gets pink eye.
  • You’ve texted a friend about a great app that just went free.
  • You have a love-hate relationship with keyguards.
  • You interpret the word ‘Quickie’ just a little bit differently than your partner.

What else?


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This post was written by Carole Zangari


  • Jane says:

    You have hundreds of children’s books and toys even though you don’t have any relevant children at home.

    You volunteer to babysit a friend’s children just so you can listen to the
    small talk a four year old uses

    You have passionate discussions with friends over dinner about different vocabulary arrangements – and then go home thinking you’ve had a fabulous evening.

    And you are deeply grateful for PrAACticalAAC 🙂

    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      Thanks for these, Jane! I find myself eavesdropping on little kids when I’m out shopping or at the park and sometimes worry that other shoppers will take that the wrong way. I do miss having little ones in the house but it’s about the language. Really!! We certainly are an interesting breed, aren’t we?!

  • Beth Waite says:

    You dream in Minspeak symbols.
    When looking at toys or activities your first thoughts are “what core words can I teach?”
    You never get asked to be on speech screening teams for preschool because you “pass” anyone who speaks.

    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      Beth, you are SO right on that last one. If they can speak in sentences, I’m ready to send them to Oxford!

  • Jeanne Tuthill says:

    You wanted to throw a party to celebrate when you found out about the REAL kid TTS voices that were developed!

    You get irrationally upset if someone doesn’t follow the Velcro Rule.

    You can look at a sentence and immediately identify core vs. fringe words.


    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      Yesss! I once worked with someone who would put soft velcro on both sides…taught him the right way at least 3 times then finally re-did the blasted work myself. Could never figure out if it was a real issue or just him being passive-aggressive.

      • Jeanne Tuthill says:

        What? Both sides? How does that even work? HAHA! That would drive me crazy!

        • Jane Farrall says:

          Jeanne – I love the way you call it the Velcro “rule”. I think you need to write it up officially so we can all pull it out and use it!

          • Amber says:

            Just for the record, “the Velcro rule” is hard on the book/pages, soft on the pictures, right?

          • Jeanne Tuthill says:

            The Velcro Rule!
            (As taught to me by my friend and mentor, Dale Gardner-Fox)

            The soft Velcro goes on the surface (think Soft = Surface)

            It works best this way because you can use a wide variety of soft fabrics as your backing for whatever you want to attach your symbols to in the environment .

            Dale likes to create easels, schedule boards, and other visual aid displays with what she calls “headliner fabric” (which is available in fabric stores and is the same stuff that is on the ceiling of your car). When you do this you have a surface that is completely Velcro sensitive. And you can also buy a ton of pre-made visual aid displays from places like Augmentative Resources ( is our favorite). All of their visual aid displays have a SOFT facing to them.

            So, that being said. If all your symbols have the HARD Velcro they will always stick to those SOFT surfaces you created/purchased!


    • You might be an AAC Therapist if you find yourself having an actual discussion about the *right* way to use Velcro!!

  • Amber says:

    You empty your pants pockets before washing them and find PECS pictures and your “not a choice” cling on symbol.

  • Amber says:

    You wish all core vocabulary layouts were the same because once you motor plan for Unity/Lamp, you can’t find the words on all the others (Pixon, Speak for Yourself, etc). Can we make a rule for that too?

  • S. Archibald says:

    Thoroughly enjoyed your article. You nailed it!

  • Maureen Nevers says:

    Your husband begs you to find a hobby that doesn’t require your eyes to be glued to technology every night.

    You respond using an AAC app or device to say “Not likely”.

    Your secret credit card purchases are from iTunes, Staples, Amazon books, and the Dollar Store.

    You consider individuals that speak in two-word utterances to be “advanced” and wonder why there was a referral.

    You think you are in the wrong room if you walk in to an IEP team meeting with fewer than 10 people at the table.

    You lay awake at night, mapping out new page sets in your mind (and sometimes successfully resist the temptation to get up and try it out!).

    On Facebook you have more “liked” professional pages and groups than you do friends and family.

    • Jeanne Tuthill says:

      Awesome additions to the list! Love the one about IEP meetings – so true! And I am guilty of spending way too much money at the places you listed!!!

  • You say “I like it” with a particular intonation more in your day to day conversations than an adult should…

    You catch yourself signing when talking to your spouse…

    You have picture cards floating around in your computer bag (or your purse)…

  • Rachael says:

    I love this list!!

    One of my favorites is: You might be an AAC therapist if you’re driving in your car and turn the corner, only to have switches in the back start commenting or playing music.

    Also…if you fix equipment like McGyver on a regular basis (e.g. Paper clip, duct tape). Can’t always replace it! Gotta make it work!

    • Jane Farrall says:

      Yay Rachael! I love the one about the switches in the car – so true! I’ve also had them go off in my suitcase when I’ve forgotten to turn them off – and wondered what the baggage handlers think!

    • Jeanne Tuthill says:

      Yes! That happens to me every time I have to travel to Boston with all my AAC gear to teach my graduate class! Those darn single message devices! 😉

  • If you read comment threads like these and think — oh look my friends were here!

    If you have tried to explain your work at a wedding and have someone say, “oh I get it, you are like a McGyver for the nonspeaking”

    If you can take any set of words, and craft a song to a bog-standard tune — WHILE signing/pointing to pictures.

    You feel a bit naked without at least 2 ways to model language.

    You have a knack for writing books about farts, burps, and other “timeless” sound effects.

    You scream in your head “PCS and PECS are different!” at least once a day (or maybe that is just my country).

    You have stared for too long trying to figure out which version of “on” symbol you want.

  • Heather says:

    There are more pictures in your iPhone of random snacks, toys, school supplies, & teachers (to import of course!) than pics of your kids and dog!

  • Angharad Welch says:

    If you have ever said ‘where’s their book/communication aid?’ Through gritted teeth whilst knowing in your heart that it hasn’T left the cupboard since you last visited. Sigh.

  • I love aac says:

    You might be an AAC therapist if you go to the store and look for stickers that will fit on your index finger nail to assist with cueing with the prompt hierarchy, not to give to students.
    *you also search for other strange things to put on your fingers
    *you think about giving yourself a manicure with bright polish may help with attending but you have no time because you are too busy creating materials and supports so you use crazy things on your fingers.

    *You might be an AAC therapist if you use circle bunion pads on devices to target words

    *You might be an AAC therapist if you walk around with a sticky circle foam bunion pad on your scarf and did not know it

    *Somebody asks you where the jokes are in a students device. You say “under the smiley face sun”. They understand. You are so happy they do.

    *You think you are a spy because you know teachers are not using the devices. You have REALIZE Language.

    You find ou that next year a very competent device user will be coming to your school. You clap your hands and squeal with delight!!!!

  • I love aac says:

    Thanks Carol! Also I think spending my Friday on an AAC sight and doing that qualifies as another.. I would love to be tapped that’s how we people who think all children who speak in full sentences are geniuses are:)

  • Christine Griswold says:

    You give the Assistive Technology Coordinator treats for random reasons. Your car says, “Today is Tuesday” for at least a week after you pull switches from the back of a retireing teacher’s closet…….
    You have explained multi-modal more than once in a week.
    You have gritted your teeth while saying, “that was why you were supposed to have the print back up available at any time.”
    You cried happy tears behind a door because a kid proved assumption of competence is the correct assumption.

  • Angela says:

    You have thoughts of missing lamination film, Velcro and Boardmaker when you retire 🙋🏼

    • Avatar photo Carole Zangari says:

      Ha! Love this, Angela! I think you’ll be having way too much fun in retirement to be missing them more than a little, though!

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