Creating Your Village: Explore Your Path Beyond Modeling to Help Create a Communication Team

Quick Overview

This session titled “Creating Your Village” explores the path to creating a communication team across home and school. The speaker, Samuel Sennott, discusses the importance of modeling AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) and provides strategies for effective communication. He emphasizes the need for a point person in the child’s support team and highlights the importance of coordination and collaboration among team members. Sennott also introduces the SMART goal planning framework and the concept of strategy instruction to teach complex skills. He concludes by discussing the use of naturalistic language interventions and functional communication to address challenging behavior. Overall, the session aims to empower parents and professionals to create a strong support system for individuals with communication needs.


In this session titled “Creating Your Village,” we will explore the journey into and beyond modeling to help create a communication team across home and school. I am Samuel Sennott from Portland State University in the Universal Design Lab, and I am excited to take you on this journey.

Take a Moment

Before we begin, I want you to take a moment to think about something you are thankful for in your life. It could be anything, not necessarily related to your child at the conference. Just take a moment to reflect on something you love. Now, think about something you are thankful for in relation to your child. It could be something unique or quirky about them. Lastly, think about something you are good at, something you feel confident about. Take a moment to reflect on these thoughts.

Video: Inside Riley’s Head

Now, I want you to watch this video from the Pixar film “Inside Out” and think about how it relates to a child with Angelman Syndrome entering the world. The video explores the idea of understanding what is going on inside someone’s head. As parents and family members, we have a powerful bond with our children as we embark on this journey together.

The Importance of School

As parents, one of the most important moments is when we drop our children off at school. We want to feel confident that our child is in a good place and receiving the support they need. However, many parents face challenges in ensuring their child’s needs are met in the school environment. This is where our focus lies – creating good communication partner training and systems to support children in school.

AAC Fundamentals

Before we delve into the specifics, let’s review some Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) fundamentals. AAC is a way to communicate using multiple modalities such as speech, signs, gestures, writing, and technology. It is important to choose an AAC system that meets your child’s needs and provides effective means for communication. This could be a high-tech or low-tech system, depending on your child’s abilities and preferences.

Setting Up the Environment

In order to support communication, it is crucial to ensure that your child can physically access their AAC system. Consider factors such as positioning, vision, hearing, and motor skills. Additionally, it is important to incorporate AAC into the environment in a way that is appropriate and accessible for your child.

Interaction Strategies

Using appropriate interaction strategies is key to supporting communication. One strategy that we will focus on is modeling AAC. Modeling involves using AAC yourself to demonstrate its use to your child. This has been shown to be effective in improving communication skills. Other strategies include providing wait time and responding to your child’s communication attempts.

Getting Started with AAC

To get started with AAC, it is important to identify meaningful contexts for communication. Think about situations or activities that are meaningful to you and your child. This could be art, swimming, music, or any other activity that your child enjoys. By incorporating AAC into these contexts, you can create more opportunities for communication.

Selecting Vocabulary

When selecting vocabulary for your child’s AAC system, consider using a core-based system that includes high-frequency words. You can also add specific vocabulary based on your child’s interests and needs. There are various resources available to help with vocabulary selection, such as reference lists and visual scene displays.

Supporting Communication in School

Supporting communication in the school environment requires coordination and collaboration among the entire team. It is important to ensure that everyone involved, including teachers, speech pathologists, and educational assistants, has the necessary knowledge and skills to support your child’s communication. This may involve providing training and coaching to the team members.

The Importance of Coaching

Coaching is a valuable approach to support the implementation of AAC strategies. By providing ongoing support and guidance, you can help team members develop the necessary skills and confidence to effectively support your child’s communication. Coaching involves strategy instruction, practice, and independent performance.

The AAC Immersion Project

We are currently working on the AAC Immersion Project, sponsored by the Angelman Syndrome Foundation. This project aims to research communication partner coaching in AAC immersion for individuals with Angelman Syndrome. We are excited to share our findings and provide resources for interventionists and specialists to support individuals with Angelman Syndrome.


Creating a strong village to support your child’s communication journey is essential. By understanding the fundamentals of AAC, selecting appropriate vocabulary, and implementing effective interaction strategies, you can help create a communication team that supports your child’s needs. Remember, it is never too early or too late to start using AAC, and with the right support and coaching, your child can thrive in their communication skills.

Talk details

  • Title: Creating Your Village. Explore Your Path Beyond Modeling to Help Create a Communication Team
  • Author(s): Sam Sennott
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2017-08-14
  • Collection: 2017 ASF Family Conference