AAC Implementation

Expectant Pause Strategy: Encouraging Communication Through Patient Listening

Vicki Clarke
May 23, 2023

Expectant Pause Strategy: Encouraging Communication Through Patient Listening

Vicki Clarke
May 23, 2023

In our fast-paced, communication-driven world, it's easy to overlook the power of silence. We often feel the need to fill every moment with words, assuming that constant chatter is the key to effective communication. However, when working with students who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems, sometimes the simplest act of being quiet and listening can have a profound impact. In this blog post, we will explore how waiting patiently for a student to communicate can empower them to use their AAC system effectively.

The Magic of the Pause

Have you ever noticed that sometimes just waiting 10-15 secondsafter you say something can encourage a childto start talking? This "expectant pause" helps children who are learning language or the use of an AAC system too!It may seem counterintuitive, but allowing a brief period of silence after making a statement, asking a question, or offering a comment can be incredibly beneficial. During this pause, silently count to 10 before providing any further guidance or encouragement.

By giving the student time to process what has been said, consider their response, and figure out how to communicate it, we are allowing them the space they need to learn and grow. This pause is vital, especially for students who are still navigating the complexities of AAC systems. It helps them develop their thought processes, language skills, and self-expression abilities at their own pace.

Harnessing the Human Need to Fill Silence

Humans have an inherent aversion to empty air. We often feel compelled to fill silence with words or actions, and this instinct can work in our favor when it comes to encouraging communication in students, especially those using AAC systems. That momentary pause we provide creates an opportunity for the student to respond. It's remarkable how often that little bit of silence is all they need to gather their thoughts and engage in meaningful communication.

What If They Don't Respond?

In some cases, despite the initial pause, a student might not respond immediately. However, this doesn't mean we should rush to provide more prompts or repeat ourselves right away. Instead, try repeating the initial statement, adding a slightly stronger prompt if necessary, and then counting to 10 again before intervening further.

Remember, the goal is to empower the student to think independently and find their voice. By allowing them ample time to process the information and consider their response, we are fostering their confidence and self-reliance. Patience is key in this process, and the more we practice it, the better we become at guiding students without stifling their growth.

The Importance of Preparing Students

Before incorporating pause cues into our communication with AAC users, it's crucial to ensure that we have adequately taught them what they can say and how to say it. We need to provide the necessary scaffolding for their language development. This can involve modeling the desired communication ourselves (“MODEL”), offering multiple choices to encourage decision-making (“You could say this or this.”), and showing them how to interact with their AAC symbols ("touch...").

Once we are confident that the student understands the concepts and techniques, we can present opportunities for them to express themselves and then wait patiently for their response. The combination of proper instruction and patient listening will nurture their communication skills and enhance their ability to navigate the world through their AAC system.

In a world that often values constant talking and immediate responses, the power of silence should not be underestimated, especially when working with students who use AAC systems. By embracing moments of pause and providing students with the time they need to process and respond, we can foster their confidence, language development, and overall communication abilities.

Remember, being quiet and listening is not a passive act. It is an active choice that demonstrates our respect and belief in the capabilities of our students. By incorporating patience and thoughtful pauses into our interactions, we empower them to find their voice, express themselves, and engage meaningfully with the world