Gaining Language: What to Consider & How to Start

Quick Overview

Caroline Woeber, a speech-language pathologist, discusses the importance of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in helping children with communication difficulties. She explains the different types of AAC, such as unaided and aided communication, and highlights the benefits of using various tools and strategies. Woeber emphasizes the need for early consideration of AAC and the importance of AAC evaluations to determine the most suitable communication system for each child. She also stresses the role of communication partners in supporting language development and encourages caregivers to seek training in communication partner strategies. Woeber concludes by emphasizing the goal of language development and the importance of patience, commitment, and bridging skills in the AAC journey.


In this talk, I will discuss the importance of gaining language and how to start the journey towards effective communication. As a speech-language pathologist and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) specialist, I have extensive experience in helping children with communication difficulties. By the end of this talk, you will have a good understanding of what AAC is, how to find a speech-language pathologist specializing in AAC, the AAC evaluation process, and the importance of communication partners.

What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)?

AAC refers to the use of unaided and aided strategies for communication. Unaided communication involves using our bodies to express ourselves, such as through eye gaze, facial expressions, gestures, and sign language. Aided communication, on the other hand, involves using tools or devices like writing tools, photos, drawings, symbols, phones, computers, tablets, and speech generating devices.

The Language Journey with AAC

Language development typically progresses from crying and smiling to gestures, words, phrases, sentences, stories, and eventually conversation. For individuals with Angelman syndrome, spoken language may be limited, but gestures are often a strength. It is important to recognize their strong desire to communicate and socially engage. AAC can provide them with the means to express themselves and develop language.

When to Consider AAC

Individuals with Angelman syndrome should start considering AAC as early as possible. An AAC evaluation is a crucial first step to determine the child’s current communication abilities and set goals for what they should be able to communicate. It is important to identify the most meaningful communication needs for the child and provide them with access to communication through signs, gestures, vocalizations, or AAC devices.

The AAC Evaluation Process

During an AAC evaluation, the child will demonstrate their ability to use words, signs, gestures, pictures, and speech generating devices. The evaluation helps identify the child’s strengths, motor access, visual access, language use, and motivation. It also allows for the exploration of different tools and strategies to determine the most effective AAC system for the child. The evaluation may lead to recommendations for speech therapy, diagnostic therapy, funding for a speech generating device, and parent training.

Funding Considerations for Speech Generating Devices

Obtaining funding for a speech generating device can be a significant hurdle. It is important to check with your insurance provider to understand what they cover and what the process entails. The cost of a device can vary, and it is essential to consider factors such as durability, portability, size, weight, speakers, warranty, and local device representatives. Language considerations, organization, motor planning, photos, symbols, icons, navigation, voice, and alternative access are also important factors to consider when choosing a device.

Finding an AAC Specialist

When seeking an AAC specialist, it is important to ask questions about their experience with a variety of devices, access to different devices, funding experience, and comfort with different communication systems. It is crucial to find a therapist who can provide specialized expertise and guide you through the AAC process. If a therapist lacks experience in certain areas, they should be willing to seek mentorship or collaborate with other professionals.

The Role of Communication Partners

Communication partners play a vital role in supporting individuals with Angelman syndrome in their language development. It is essential to honor and accept the child’s communication, provide access to AAC tools, and commit to learning how to use the device. Communication partners should receive training in communication partner strategies to effectively support the child’s communication. Building a network of communication partners across different circles, such as family, friends, and professionals, can enhance the child’s language development and meaningful relationships.


Gaining language through AAC is a journey that requires commitment, support, and collaboration. By considering the child’s communication needs, finding the right AAC system, and involving communication partners, individuals with Angelman syndrome can develop their language skills and achieve meaningful communication. Remember to be patient, try your best, and seek guidance from AAC specialists to ensure the best outcomes for your child’s language journey.

Talk details

  • Title: Gaining language:What to Consider & how to start
  • Author(s): Caroline Woeber
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2021-09-08
  • Collection: Angelman Academy