Implementing Augmentative & Alternative Communication

Quick Overview

Implementing Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) involves motivating the child, modeling language, and giving them space to communicate. It is important to have the AAC device available and to create a communication-rich environment. Video modeling and self-talk buttons can also be effective tools. It is crucial to be a detective and not a director, allowing the child to communicate in their own way. It is also important to address anxiety and to work with the school system to ensure consistent use of AAC.


In this talk, we will discuss the importance of implementing Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) for individuals with complex communication needs. We will explore the benefits of AAC, the different ways it can be implemented, and how to create a communication-rich environment at home.

Motivate, Model, and Move Out of the Way

The key to successful AAC implementation is to motivate, model, and move out of the way. By creating a motivating environment, modeling AAC use, and giving individuals the space to communicate, we can help them develop their communication skills.

Set it and Forget it

The first step is to have the AAC device readily available. Whether it’s an iPad with a communication app or a dedicated AAC device, make sure it is easily accessible. You can wear it, carry it, or have it placed in a visible location. The focus should be on creating a connection with the individual, rather than just using the device for communication.

Modeling AAC

Modeling AAC means using the device or app to communicate with the individual. This can be done by speaking the words aloud while selecting them on the device, or by using video modeling. Video modeling involves creating videos of yourself or others using the device to communicate, which can be a powerful tool for learning.

Moving Out of the Way

Once the individual becomes familiar with the AAC system, it’s important to give them the space to use it independently. Avoid directing their communication or constantly reminding them to use their device. Instead, create opportunities for them to communicate and be patient as they develop their skills.

Building a Communication-Rich Environment

To create a communication-rich environment, it’s important to surround the individual with language and symbols. Label objects in the environment with words and symbols, and incorporate core words (words that make up 80% of our communication) into everyday activities. This helps individuals develop a robust communication system and encourages them to use their AAC device in various contexts.


Implementing Augmentative & Alternative Communication can greatly improve the communication skills of individuals with complex communication needs. By motivating, modeling, and giving individuals the space to communicate, we can help them develop their communication skills and create a communication-rich environment.

Talk details

  • Title: Implementing Augmentative & Alternative Communication
  • Author(s): Kate Ahern
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: Easterseals
  • Publication date: 2015-08-19
  • Collection: 2015 ASF Family Conference