I was in a workshop recently when I heard someone say, “He can’t learn to use his AAC device for anything but requesting because he has autism.”

Could that be true?

I don’t think so.

I think we often introduce AAC equipment and strategies in activities that involve requesting.  Why?  Because it is motivating and often instantly successful.   Because it works!  We then often expand opportunities for requesting to additional activities throughout the day, so the AAC user can request snack foods, center time activities, music, break time, and even which classmate to sit with.   Many opportunities, but only opportunities for requesting.  Is that all there is?

We know that the ability to use AAC to request may not automatically transfer to other functions of language without teaching.  That is what the research suggests.  So what that means for us is that we need to introduce AAC use for other functions of language and then use our communication partner strategies to teach it!

How do we do it?

We can model and teach AAC use for commenting, protesting, and sharing information in virtually any setting.

I can show commenting at its most simple by saying and touching the AAC device to indicate “this is good” or “this stinks,” while we are having a snack.   “This is funny,” while reading a book or “This makes me mad,” when having difficulty with something.

I can show protesting by modeling the use of the AAC device to say, “I don’t want to,” or “No” after presenting items or activities that I know the AAC user does not like.  “Stop it,” when a classmate is being a bother.  I can use sabotage to create situations that lend themselves to protest and then assist the AAC user to do so with his or her device.

I can teach information sharing by using photographs of the AAC user engaged in fun activities or with his or her family members, and messages that tell about the people and events depicted.  “This is my dog.”  “This is me at Christmas with my presents.”  “Look at me on a bike!”

Have a look at the AAC users that you support.  Are they using their AAC device for a variety of language purposes?

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