AAC Implementation

How To Use AAC To Support Language Therapy

Melissa Barbieri
June 5, 2024

How To Use AAC To Support Language Therapy

Melissa Barbieri
June 5, 2024

Oftentimes as therapists, we are taught to think AAC use is limited to students with severe  communication deficits that generally do not communicate verbally. However, more and  more we are finding ways to use AAC as supplementation even for students with less  severe needs for both language and articulation therapy! Specifically, there are a handful of  ways to target vocabulary development using AAC.  

Learn Your Animal Names

One way to use AAC to support articulation and language therapy at the same time is by  using animals! By selecting the “animals” button, students can work on identifying  common animals in a large field, and once selected, are given a model for how to produce  the target word. With shorter animal words (like “dog, cat, fish, etc.) students can work on  CVC, final consonant deletion, etc. Going a step further, students can also work on  environmental sounds—either identifying the source or producing the sounds themselves.

Express Your Emotions

Many students struggle with labeling emotions, and oftentimes because their vocabulary is  limited to more frequently used words like “happy, sad, mad”. To expand beyond these  three adjectives, students can use AAC for a large word bank! Granted, some of these  words may be di=icult to read for younger students, which is why an AAC can be so  beneficial. Both the button’s images and the auditory feedback students get when  selecting a button makes it easier for even younger students to participate. While reading a  story, students can go back to the AAC to match the character’s facial expressions from the  book to a button, simultaneously using AAC for general language therapy.  

Let’s Describe: Qualitative/Quantitative Concepts

Qualitative and quantitative concepts can be difficult to understand, especially  without a visual field for reference. Similarly to how we used AAC to discuss emotions, it  can also be applied to prepositions, spatial concepts, and even adjectives. For example,  giving students a large auditory field when identifying prepositions may not always be as  effective.  Instead, providing them with both the visual and auditory fields on an AAC can  make it easier to recall, especially for students with auditory memory deficits.  

Answering Questions

AAC can be especially helpful with teaching kids to respond reliably to yes and no  questions. Generally, the issue for students is first understanding these words are not  synonymous and they have different results. The visual feedback of green “YES” and a red  “NO” helps students identify the di=erence between the meanings. Similarly, playing the  “Stop and Go” game using red and green lights helps further this idea. The red word “no” is associated to something not being right or ending. Rather the green “yes” is associated  with being correct or continuing. AAC can help visualize these concepts and make them  more concrete.

Generally, these yes/no questions are considered ‘close-ended’, meaning  the response requires only a yes/no and does not really leave room for continuing a  conversation. However, we can expand and make these yes/no questions ‘open-ended’ by  adding WH-questions (e.g. “Who?” “Where?”) as a follow up! This will encourage language development and allow  the student to share their own personal thoughts/feelings on the subject. For example, we can ask, “Did you eat lunch?” and then follow up that question with “What did you eat for  lunch?”. For more information, please visit our Partner Strategy Kit on “Beyond Yes & No” on  YouTube!

It is time for therapists to step out of the box where AAC is limited to a small group of  people with a very specific need and extend this wonderful resource for other students who we may have never expected could benefit. AAC can be a fun, new way to target vocabulary  development for kids with all kinds of needs. This can make sessions more interactive and  generalizable for everyone!


For more AAC partner strategies like our Beyond Yes & No, visit our TPT Store and check out our Full Partner Team Training Program!

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