Angelman Academy: Introduction to AAC

Quick Overview

This course provides an introduction to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), which is a communication method that supports individuals with communication difficulties. AAC encompasses various modes of communication, such as gestures, facial expressions, spoken words, typing, and picture-symbol based communication. The course emphasizes the importance of understanding the underlying principles of AAC and the belief that everyone communicates, even those without speech. It also explores different AAC options, including object-based systems, picture communication books, dedicated high-tech devices, and tablet-based devices. The course highlights the need for multimodal communication and the importance of modeling and supporting individuals in their AAC journey. It also dispels myths about AAC, such as the idea that AAC hinders verbal speech development. The course concludes with practical tips for supporting AAC users at home and in educational settings.

Welcome to Angelman Academy! In this course, we will be exploring Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). AAC is a form of communication that helps individuals overcome communication difficulties. It encompasses various modes of communication, including gestures, facial expressions, spoken words, typing, and picture-symbol based communication.

The Underlying Principles of AAC

The first principle of AAC is that everyone communicates, even individuals who do not have speech. Communication begins from infancy through crying, looking, reaching, sounds, and movement. Our role is to help individuals who do not communicate verbally to use a communication system that allows them to express their wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings about the world.

There are many ways to communicate, such as using picture symbols, texting, speech, communication devices, sign language, and more. All of these methods are valuable and should be respected. Our goal as parents, teachers, and therapists is to teach and support the most efficient and understandable method of communication for each individual.

Multimodal Communication

Multimodal communication refers to the different methods individuals use to communicate. This includes facial expressions, vocalizations, body movements, eye pointing, gestures, verbal approximations, verbal speech, sign language, picture exchange communication, communication boards and books, and high-tech or electronic communication systems.

It is important to honor all methods of multimodal communication and to focus on efficiency and understanding. We should avoid dismissing natural gestures or other forms of communication and instead pair them with more formal methods like spoken language or picture symbols.

The Functions of Communication

Communication serves various functions, including expressing wants and needs, transferring information, creating social closeness, following social etiquette, and engaging in internal dialogue. Our goal is to support individuals with complex communication needs to communicate in all these functions.

Presuming Potential

In AAC, we presume potential and possibility. We believe that every child and adult is capable of learning and participating, even if we do not have conclusive data. We should not make assumptions based on historical beliefs or severe cognitive impairments. Individuals with assumed moderate to severe disabilities are more likely to suffer from educational neglect, and we must check our assumptions and provide appropriate intervention and support.

The Communication Bill of Rights

The Communication Bill of Rights outlines the rights of individuals with complex communication needs. These rights include being given real choices, saying no and refusing, asking for what they want, sharing feelings, being heard and understood, using their communication system all the time, being taught how to use their system, being communicated with in a safe and appropriate manner, being spoken to with dignity and respect, being a full and equal member of the community, having their communication system in working order, and asking and knowing about their schedule and world.

Choosing an AAC System

When choosing an AAC system, it is important to consider factors such as vision, hearing, behavior, motor skills, positioning and mobility, access method, sensory issues, and any other specific needs. It is also crucial to think about the present and future needs of the individual and to choose a system that will work for them in the long term.

Different AAC Systems

There are various AAC systems available, including object-based communication systems, tangible symbol systems, 3D symbols, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), picture communication books, POD (Pragmatic Organization of Dynamic Display), light tech devices, eye gaze systems, dedicated high-tech devices, keyboard-based systems, and tablet-based devices.

Each system has its own advantages and considerations, and it is important to choose a system that suits the individual’s needs and abilities. It is also worth noting that starting with more language and higher levels of abstraction can lead to faster and more efficient communication.

Vocabulary Arrangements

AAC systems can have different arrangements of vocabulary, such as categorical arrangement, semantic arrangement, pragmatic arrangement, alphabetical arrangement, or a hybrid of these arrangements. Each arrangement has its own benefits and considerations, and the best system is the one that works for the individual.

Supporting AAC Users at Home

To support AAC users at home, it is important to model AAC use, ask open-ended questions, be conspiratorial rather than confrontational, and be a detective rather than a director. Hanging up a poster of core language systems at home and school can also facilitate modeling and communication.

In conclusion, AAC is a valuable tool for individuals with complex communication needs. By understanding the underlying principles, choosing the right system, and providing support, we can help individuals with Angelman syndrome and other communication challenges communicate effectively and be understood in their world.

Talk details

  • Title: Angelman Academy: Introduction to AAC
  • Author(s): Kate Ahern
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2022-10-28
  • Collection: Angelman Academy