Dynamic Therapy Associates, Inc. is a family-focused speech language pathology practice. We provide articulation, language, oral-motor/feeding, and AAC services to our patients.
Supporting individuals who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) involves understanding and respecting their autonomy. Unfortunately, the use of hand-over-hand assistance in communication attempts can have unintended negative consequences for AAC users. In this blog, we'll explore why relying on this method may hinder authentic communication and discuss alternative approaches that empower individuals to express themselves independently.
When partners use hand-over-hand assistance to guide an AAC user's hand to select symbols or messages, it creates a fundamental misconception. Messages generated in this way may not authentically represent the user's thoughts or desires. It's crucial to recognize that such attempts may be more reflective of the partner's influence than the true intentions of the AAC user.
Every individual, regardless of their communication abilities, deserves autonomy over their own body and movements. The natural instinct of a person is to resist when someone else attempts to control their actions. AAC users may instinctively pull away from forced hand movements, leading to a breakdown in trust and hindering the development of genuine communication.
To foster authentic communication, it's essential to make AAC devices easily accessible and personally meaningful to the user. Instead of relying on hand-over-hand assistance, invite the AAC user to interact with their communication device independently. Ensure that picture symbols and devices are not only physically accessible but also tailored to include vocabulary that is personally relevant, meaningful, and motivating for the individual.
AAC devices should go beyond generic language and include vocabulary that matters to the user. Include names of family and friends, favorite community places, and leisure activities. By incorporating personalized and meaningful vocabulary, the AAC user is more likely to engage in communication willingly, expressing their true thoughts and preferences.
Empowering AAC users involves recognizing and respecting their autonomy in communication. Hand-over-hand assistance may seem helpful, but it can impede genuine expression and create barriers to trust. Instead, focus on making AAC devices easily accessible and incorporating personally meaningful vocabulary, allowing individuals to communicate independently and authentically. By doing so, we pave the way for a more inclusive and empowering communication experience for AAC users and their partners.