AAC Applications, Equipment and other Tools

Potential of Larger Grid Sizes in AAC Devices

Vicki Clarke
October 25, 2023

Potential of Larger Grid Sizes in AAC Devices

Vicki Clarke
October 25, 2023

As parents and educators, we are constantly striving to provide the best support for individuals who rely on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices. AAC devices open doors to communication for those who may have difficulty expressing themselves verbally, and the grid size of these devices is a crucial aspect of their effectiveness. In this article, we will explore why limiting the grid size in AAC devices can be counterproductive and how a larger grid size can actually benefit users in various ways.

1. Access to Enough Words for Language Development

One of the fundamental reasons to avoid limiting the grid size in AAC devices is to ensure that AAC users have access to a sufficient vocabulary. Language development is a dynamic process, and children and adults alike need a wide range of words to express themselves effectively. Restricting the number of words available can hinder their ability to communicate and learn new words over time.

2. Modeling Advanced Language for AAC Users

A larger grid size allows adults and educators to model more advanced language for AAC users. By having access to a broader range of words, AAC users can observe and learn how to construct more complex sentences and express nuanced ideas. This modeling is essential for their language development and overall communication skills.

3. Efficient Use of Motor Memory

AAC users often rely on motor memory to access words quickly and effectively. With a larger grid size, users can develop muscle memory for the location of specific words or phrases, making communication smoother and less time-consuming. Limiting the grid size forces users to navigate through multiple pages, increasing cognitive demands and making communication more challenging.

4. Smaller Grids: A False Simplicity

Some may believe that smaller grid sizes are simpler, but the reality is quite the opposite. Smaller grids require more navigation through various pages of the device to access desired words or messages. This increased navigation places a higher cognitive burden on the AAC user, as they must remember the pathway through linking buttons to reach their intended word or message. Constructing multiword messages and sentences becomes more challenging under these constraints.

5. Visual Scanning and Touch Access Challenges

A larger grid size does introduce challenges, such as increased visual scanning to process word and message choices, as well as smaller targets for touch access. However, these challenges are outweighed by the benefits of having a more extensive vocabulary readily available.

Strategies for Optimizing AAC Device Usage

To make the most of AAC devices with limitless grid sizes, we can employ various strategies:

  • During initial instruction, consider hiding certain buttons on a page to allow AAC users to develop motor planning skills. As they become more proficient, gradually reveal all buttons to create a language-rich environment.
  • It is important to give AAC users plenty of time to explore the device with a full array of words and messages. Learning through exploration and natural partner responses can be a powerful learning method that matches a more organic language development process.

Final Thoughts

In the world of AAC devices, it’s crucial to recognize the value of larger grid sizes. They provide AAC users with the tools they need for comprehensive language development, advanced language modeling, and efficient communication through motor memory. While the challenges of a larger grid size are present, they are far outweighed by the benefits of an expanded vocabulary and the opportunities for more effective communication. By embracing these advantages and using thoughtful strategies, we can help AAC users reach their full communicative potential.