AAC Implementation

Nurturing Communication: Focusing on Words That Foster Social Connections for AAC Users

Vicki Clarke
September 6, 2023

Nurturing Communication: Focusing on Words That Foster Social Connections for AAC Users

Vicki Clarke
September 6, 2023

In the journey of selecting vocabulary targets for students using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), it's important to consider not only functional communication but also the social and relationship building value of interaction. This blog post delves into the concepts of basic communication skills, academic language proficiency, and the temptation to prioritize classroom vocabulary. We'll also highlight the significance of incorporating motivating words and messages for AAC users, as well as the role of word lists contributed by family and friends.

Fostering Social Connections:

Effective communication goes beyond exchanging information—it's about building connections and relationships. When selecting initial vocabulary targets, think beyond just functional words. Consider words that reflect the student's interests, hobbies, and favorite people and places.

These words create bridges between AAC users and those around them, fostering meaningful connections.

Motivating Vocabulary:

To keep the communication experience engaging and motivating, include words that resonate with the student's passions. For instance, if a student loves animals, incorporating words like "puppy," "kitten," or their own pet, “Mittens”can spark excitement and enthusiasm. Words related to favorite activities such as "swimming," "painting," or "dancing" add a layer of personal connection to their communication journey.

High Social Value Vocabulary:

Certain words carry high social value as they provide immediate environmental control and allow for interaction with peers. Words like "turn on," "turn off," "help," and "stop" give the AAC user the ability to initiate actions and influence their surroundings. These words empower them to take charge of their environment and participate actively in group activities.

Cognitive Academic Vocabulary:

While there might be a temptation to start with vocabulary that allows for responding in the classroom, it's crucial to prioritize learning to communicate for basic interpersonal communication needs before targeting academic concepts. Academic language, often referred to as cognitive academic language proficiency, involves more complex language skills required for academic learning, critical thinking, and understanding abstract concepts. However, the foundation of communication begins with everyday conversational language skills.

Strategies for Effective Vocabulary Selection:

1. Embrace Personalization: Tailor the AAC user's vocabulary to their individual interests and preferences.

2. Blend Core and Personal Vocabulary: Combine high-frequency words with personally meaningful ones to create a well-rounded vocabulary.

3. Foster Independence: Include words that empower the student to express their needs and desires independently.

4. Encourage Interaction: Prioritize words that initiate conversations, encourage play, and facilitate social engagement.

Selecting vocabulary targets for AAC users is more than just assembling a list of words—it's about building a bridge to communication, connection, and meaningful relationships. By incorporating concepts that nurture social connections and personal preferences, along with motivating and socially valuable words, we create a rich and empowering communication experience. By involving family and friends in the process, we ensure that the AAC user's voice reflects their unique personality and aspirations. Remember, communication is the gateway to a world of possibilities, and with the right vocabulary, AAC users can express themselves, engage with others, and thrive socially while gradually expanding into the realm of academic language.

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