How to Get Started

  • If augmentative and alternative communication is being introduced for the first time, focus on highly motivating topics or activities to allow the individual to understand the power of the system.
  • Ultimately, the goal is to use a communication system in all environments, but initially, you may want to introduce new communication methods in one environment only.
  • Be prepared to make modifications of communication messages and symbols and expand the system as needed.
  • Train everyone (family members, caregivers, staff, educators) who comes in contact with the individual regarding how the communication system works and how to interact with the individual with a communication disorder.
  • Model how the communication system is used. Remember, parents model spoken language thousands of times before a child says his or her first word, therefore it is important to model the use of augmentative and alternative communication systems, too. Aided Language Stimulation (PDF) is supported by research studies as a positive method for increasing expressive communication skills.
  • Consider starting with the number of message squares on a page that you want to use in the end. You can start with as little as 2-4 messages and leave the other message squares blank. Add messages in the blank squares as progress takes place. This means that the messages will stay in the same place and the locations will not have to be relearned when building from a 2 location, to 4, or up to 32 and more.

    Remember, when we learn how to type, we have the entire keyboard in front of us, but we are only required to practice typing using the “home row” keys at first. We use muscle (or kinesthetic) memory to access the keys with increasing speed over time. This is true for augmentative communication devices as well.

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