I often run into teachers, speech pathologists and families who believe that all their nonverbal student needs is a communication system in order to be able to communicate with us. But, teaching a student to use AAC (augmentative-alternative communication) involves so much more than simply giving them a robust communication system.
Good communication partners also need to create a positive communication environment, respond to all the student’s communication attempts, and use the child’s AAC system to communicate with them.
That last step is crucial, and often missed. We know our students learn best from having precise visual or physical models of someone performing the task. And we also know that when you’re teaching a student another language (and picture-based communication is another language) that you need to immerse the student in that language.
There is a positive communication environment when we respond to all of a child’s communication attempts, provide support as needed, focus on positive results and successes, and find solutions to challenges.
Even when you respond to an undesirable behavior, if you do so while also modeling how to use a correct message in the AAC system you take advantage of a communication opportunity.
The more you practice using the AAC system, during real contexts, and increase the number of contexts in which you use the AAC system, the more automatically the child will learn to use the AAC system.
These tips and much more can be found in this free handout, which gives you lots of helpful information on how to be a good communication partner to a students who uses AAC.
Keep on talking! And come see me at my blog.