Getting Started with AAC – Motivate, Model, and Move Out of the Way

Quick Overview

This course is about getting started with augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for individuals with Angelman Syndrome. The author emphasizes the importance of robust AAC systems that support motor planning, expandable vocabulary, grammar, and the alphabet. The course introduces the concept of Motivate, Model, and Move Out of the Way as a strategy for teaching AAC. Motivating activities are identified as those that capture the individual’s interest and engagement. Modeling is described as using the AAC system to communicate with the individual, gradually increasing the complexity of language modeled. Moving out of the way involves giving the individual space and time to use the AAC system independently, using wait time and expectant pauses. The prompt hierarchy is discussed as a way to support language development, with an emphasis on non-directive modeling and avoiding physical prompts. The course concludes with a recommendation to join the AAC through Motivate Model Move Out of the Way Facebook group for further support and discussion.

Welcome to Angelman Academy! In this course, we will explore the basics of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and how to implement it effectively. Whether you are starting fresh or starting over with AAC, this session will provide you with the tools to support individuals with Angelman Syndrome.

Robust AAC: What Does it Mean?

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) refers to any communication system that replaces or extends verbal and natural communication. When we talk about robust AAC, we mean a system that supports motor planning, has an expandable vocabulary, supports grammar, includes the alphabet, and has pre-programmed messages for fast-moving or emergency situations.

Motor Planning and Consistent Vocabulary Placement

Motor planning is crucial in AAC systems. It involves consistent vocabulary placement, where buttons and symbols remain in the same location on every page. This allows individuals to learn where things are and access them easily. Look for systems that prioritize motor planning, such as LAMP or Unity, as they provide consistent vocabulary placement.

Expandable Vocabulary

An effective AAC system should have an expandable vocabulary that grows as skills improve. This means you can add buttons, pages, and sections to the system. You can also hide buttons or make them not visible, revealing them when they are mastered. It’s important for the child to have the freedom to explore and play with language. Avoid systems that lack thought and planning for future growth.

Grammar and Alphabet

A robust AAC system supports grammar, including verb tenses, declensions, and superlatives. It should also include the alphabet, as spelling is essential for expressing oneself fully. Look for systems that offer letter, word, and phrase prediction, as well as spelling corrections. A wide range of core words and fringe words should be available to allow for comprehensive communication.

Vocabulary Arrangement

AAC systems can be arranged categorically, semantically, pragmatically, or alphabetically. Categorical systems organize words by category, making it easier to find specific words. Semantic systems arrange words by word association and part of speech. Pragmatic systems focus on practical language use and purpose. Alphabetical systems arrange words alphabetically for easy access. Choose a system that suits your child’s needs and preferences.

Motivate, Model, and Move Out of the Way

To support AAC learning, we need to motivate, model, and give space for individuals to use their AAC systems. Motivation involves finding activities and topics that engage and excite the individual. Model language by using their AAC system to communicate with them. Give them space and time to respond, allowing for wait time and expectant pauses. Use the prompt hierarchy to guide their learning, starting with aided language stimulation and gradually increasing support if needed. Finally, move out of the way and let the individual take ownership of their communication.


Implementing AAC requires motivation, modeling, and giving space for individuals to use their AAC systems. By understanding the principles of robust AAC, vocabulary arrangement, and the prompt hierarchy, you can support effective communication for individuals with Angelman Syndrome. Remember to join the AAC through Motivate Model Move Out of the Way Facebook group for further support and resources.

Talk details

  • Title: Getting started with AAC – Motivate, Model, and Move Out of the Way
  • Author(s): Kate Ahern
  • Author(s)’ affiliation: None
  • Publication date: 2022-11-01
  • Collection: Angelman Academy