Assistive Technology Network

How do I get started?

When working with a student who has limited or no way to communicate, AAC should be considered. To begin, work with the student’s IEP team to help make decisions about AAC options. The IEP team includes the family and the student (depending on the age of the student) as well as others involved with the student (e.g., Speech and Language Pathologist, OT, paraprofessional). When meeting with the IEP team, start with the easy-to-use Assistive Technology Consideration Guide.

Communication is critically important in learning and practicing academics, in socializing, in playing, and in participating in activities of daily living. Since the student has limited or no way to communicate, the student will be identified as needing some kind of AAC.

Even if the student does not communicate by speaking (orally), the student does communicate. The student's efforts might be demonstrated by using one or more of the following:

  • Behaviors (e.g., hitting, throwing things, crying)
  • Vocalizations (e.g., "co" for cookie)
  • Using gestures or facial or body language (e.g., pointing, eye gaze, smiling)

After going through the "consideration guide," the next step is to determine how the student currently communicates effectively in ways other than through behaviors. Does the student use any of some of the following to communicate effectively? Also, which skills are emerging?

  • Gesture
  • Sign language
  • Oral words
  • Pictures with real photographs
  • Pictures with line drawings or icons
  • Text, or typing
  • Pressing a touch screen picture
  • Using a voice output device

Even though the team has not completed a thorough assessment, there is no need to wait. The team can determine which communication skills are emerging and can start to help the student build on those skills immediately.