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Friday 19 Jan 2018

For Speech Therapists and Other Professionals

Getting Started

If you are new to using AAC strategies with your clients with autism, there are several tools that you can use to:

  • Increase your knowledge of AAC
  • Identify potential candidates for AAC
  • Complete an AAC assessment
  • Incorporate AAC strategies into your therapy sessions

Tool for Increasing AAC Knowledge

AAC includes all forms of communication that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. Everyone uses these communication strategies when we make facial expressions or gestures, point to pictures, or write. People with severe speech or language problems may use AAC strategies to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional. Special augmentative aids, such as picture and symbol communication boards and electronic devices, are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction, school/work performance, and feelings of self-worth.

AAC users should not stop using speech if they are able to do so. The AAC aids and devices are used to enhance their communication, not to replace or inhibit their existing skills. These tools are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction with others, support academic performance, and enhance feelings of self-worth.

For individuals with autism, a communication system should:

  • increase participation in the classroom, work, community and home
  • address IEP, work and personal goals
  • support timely and interactive communication
  • provide meaningful language to the recipient
  • support language and literacy learning
  • encourage successful day to day, face to face, real time interaction
  • be age and level appropriate
  • provide positive behavioral supports

AAC can be divided into two groups: unaided and aided. Unaided AAC strategies rely on the user’s body to convey messages. Unaided strategies include gestures, body language, and/or sign language. Keep in mind that unaided communication strategies must be understood by others in order to be effective.

Aided strategies require the use of tools and/or equipment in addition to the user’s body. Aided communication methods can range from paper and pencil to communication books or boards to devices that produce voice output (speech generating devices or SGD’s)and/or written output. Electronic communication aids allow the user to use picture symbols, letters, and/or words and phrases to create messages. Some devices can be programmed to produce different spoken languages.

One of the goals of AAC intervention is to determine the communication, behavioral and social needs, identify strengths and match those strengths to possible solutions. While communication may be challenging for some individuals with autism, they possess many strengths that lend them to being able to successfully use different types of communication strategies.

Individuals with autism… AAC can…
Think in a visual way and recall visual images and memories easily. Present language in a consistent and visual manner.
Can understand and benefit from concrete and visual information regarding daily events. Provide tools such as visual schedules and calendars to help individuals with autism organize their lives and understand sequence and time.

Additional Resources:
Roles and Responsibilities of Speech-Language Pathologists With Respect to Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Position Statement –

AAC Connecting Young Kids –

Tools for Assessment

The AAC assessment is necessary to identify and pursue the most appropriate system for the individual with autism.

1.    Communication Success Screening Form
This brief screening consists of 16 questions that will help you determine if an individual is a potential candidate for receiving augmentative communication intervention.
*This is currently a Microsoft Word document.

2.    Access to AAC Equipment
In order to complete an AAC evaluation, it is necessary that you have access to the appropriate equipment. Many states have a loan closet of assistive technology that can be borrowed.  You can also contact your local DynaVox Mayer-Johnson sales consultant to access equipment.

If you would like information about how to access equipment in your state, you can locate your local representative.

3.    AAC Report Writing Assistance
If you have never written an AAC assessment report before, the AAC-RERC has a great resource that will describe the components of the report.  This document will help support you as you write and submit successful funding requests on behalf of your client.

Click to view dynamic goal grid

4.    The Dynamic AAC Goals Grid is a tool for assessment and measurement of an individual’s current level of communication ability across the four communication competency areas.  In addition, it can be used to assist with planning more appropriate future communication goals with the overall goal of achieving successful communication as independently as possible.

  • Linguistic: the ability to learn and apply vocabulary and grammatical rules.
    Examples: Semantics, Syntax, Phonology and Morphology
  • Social: adhering to the social rules that govern interaction with others.
    Examples: Initiating, maintaining and terminating a conversation, monitoring communication partners, etc.
  • Operational: the ability of the AAC user to operate and maintain their communication system to the greatest extent possible.
    Examples: Turning the system on/off, preventing loss or damage, etc.
  • Strategic: the ability to prevent or repair communication breakdowns effectively
    Examples: Using multi-modal communication, correcting mistakes and misunderstandings, etc.

5.    AAC Needs Assessment
There is more to an AAC assessment than understanding an individual’s skills. Identifying appropriate AAC tools, techniques and strategies requires knowledge of an individual’s communication needs. This AAC Needs Assessment provides a thorough and quick overview of an individual’s needs across environments.

6.    The Test of Aided Symbol Performance (TASP) provides a starting point for selecting and designing an appropriate AAC strategy (low to high tech).  TASP assesses symbolic skills quickly and easily and will help you establish appropriate AAC intervention goals that target symbolic and syntactic development.  Click here to purchase.

Tools for Therapy

1.    What’s in Your Therapy Bag?
Using everyday materials to support language and literacy learning for students who use AAC

2.    Boardmaker Share combines file sharing, powerful search capabilities, implementation articles, open discussion forums, and community functions. You can search for activity and communication boards specific to a desired topic (ex. animals) or share what you have created with others. Simply download the boards you like and open them with your Boardmaker software. Use them as they are or modify them to meet your needs.

Symbol-based board categories:

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