Ask the Experts Panel: Tips for Using AAC Devices and Supporting Communication in Children with Angelman Syndrome

Quick Overview

The panel discussion focused on the use of assistive communication devices for individuals with communication difficulties. The experts emphasized the importance of starting early and providing access to communication tools, such as iPads or picture-based systems. They also discussed the challenges of choosing the right app or device and highlighted the need for individualized solutions. The panelists encouraged parents to trust their instincts and advocate for their child’s communication needs, even if it means taking matters into their own hands. They also addressed specific concerns, such as anxiety in public places and the use of AAC in bilingual households. Overall, the panel provided practical advice and support for parents and caregivers of individuals with communication difficulties.


The 2017 FAST Educational Summit featured an Ask the Experts panel, consisting of Kate Ahern, Kelly Fonner, Nancy Robinson, and Kathleen Sadao. The panel addressed questions from parents and caregivers about using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices and supporting communication in children with Angelman Syndrome. The panelists shared their expertise and provided valuable insights and advice.

Getting Started with AAC

The panel emphasized the importance of starting with AAC devices as early as possible. They recommended using as many buttons as the child can see and touch, allowing for motor planning as vocabulary expands. The panel also suggested hiding buttons that are not currently being used and gradually introducing them as the child’s vocabulary grows. They highlighted the benefits of using AAC apps like Proloquo2Go, which offer progressive language levels and the ability to explore all buttons.

Supporting Communication in Different Environments

The panel addressed a question about supporting communication in different environments, such as restaurants. They recommended using social stories to prepare the child for different situations and using visual supports like first-then boards or laminated cards. The panel also suggested using essential oils or other sensory strategies to help the child cope with anxiety in crowded places. They emphasized the importance of modeling AAC use and providing opportunities for the child to communicate their wants and needs.

Educating Others about AAC

The panel discussed strategies for educating other adults, such as teachers and paraeducators, about AAC. They emphasized the importance of modeling AAC use and providing hands-on training. The panel recommended using toolkits and tip sheets provided by AAC developers to support staff in using AAC devices effectively. They also highlighted the value of involving staff in the creation and customization of AAC tools to foster a sense of ownership and understanding.

Choosing an AAC Device or App

The panel advised parents to consider their child’s specific needs and goals when choosing an AAC device or app. They recommended creating a matrix of features and attributes that match the child’s requirements and preferences. The panel suggested trying out different tools and apps, utilizing trial versions or loan programs, and seeking guidance from professionals or other parents who have experience with AAC.

Overcoming Challenges

The panel addressed challenges such as motor difficulties and lack of pointing skills in children with Angelman Syndrome. They reassured parents that these challenges are common and part of the developmental process. The panel advised parents to continue modeling AAC use and to assume that any communication attempts, even accidental ones, are valid. They also encouraged parents to advocate for their child’s AAC needs and to take the initiative in implementing AAC strategies, even if the school or professionals are not yet fully on board.


The Ask the Experts panel provided valuable insights and advice for parents and caregivers of children with Angelman Syndrome. They emphasized the importance of early AAC intervention, modeling AAC use, and advocating for the child’s communication needs. The panel encouraged parents to trust their instincts and take an active role in supporting their child’s communication journey.

Talk details

  • Title: Ask the experts panel
  • Author(s): Kate Ahern, Kelly Fonner, Nancy Robinson, Kathleen Sadao
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2017-12-23
  • Collection: 2017 FAST Educational Summit