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Home for the Holidays! AAC Strategies for Parents and Caregivers

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Happy holidays from the Forbes AAC team! Holiday season means time spent with family and friends. Here are some AAC strategies to incorporate at home during this holiday season!

Focus on implementation! Rebecca Eisenberg (2020) suggests reviewing key intervention strategies with parents and caregivers.

  • Communication functions - it's important that AAC users learn to use their AAC system to communicate a wide range of communicative functions. It's not just about requesting! Teaching the use of the AAC system for communicative functions such as protesting, questioning, commenting, or describing, can open up an AAC user to many new vocabulary words and language functions.

  • Modeling - this is how we use AAC to teach AAC! The communication partner, such as the parent or caregiver, provides spoken words along with AAC symbols during communication tasks (ASHA, n.d.). Check out this resource from Forbes AAC on modeling: Modeling for AAC

Review the Do's and Don'ts of AAC (Farrall & Niemeijer, 2015) here: Do's and Don'ts of AAC

Things to DO:

  • Do use the AAC system to talk to yourself and model for the AAC user

  • Do provide plenty of wait time

  • Do respect multimodal communication

  • Do provide access to AAC all day, every day

  • Do ask open-ended questions

Things NOT to do:

  • Don't say "now show me on your talker"

  • Don't demand a user demonstrate prerequisite skills

  • Don't expect an individual to know how to communicate using AAC without you modeling how

  • Don't limit access to a user's AAC system

As a clinician, it's important to answer both the asked and unasked questions (Zangari, 2001). It is common that parents and caregivers leave evaluation/treatment sessions with more questions then when they came in. Going into the holiday season, clinicians can address these commonly occurring questions even if they are not asked!

  • What to expect with AAC?

  • What intervention approaches are commonly used and are effective? Which are not?

  • What will be done to see if this approach is right for my child?

  • What will be done if this is not the right approach for my child?

There are challenges surrounding AAC, but involving parents and caregivers in the AAC process from evaluation through implementation is crucial for AAC users (ASHA, n.d.). Have the user's AAC system available and present at all times, set-up opportunities to model use of the AAC system to communicate for a wide range of communicative functions, and respond to and respect all modes of communication!


Katie Threlkeld, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed, ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist and the Educational Program Developer at Forbes AAC. She has over eight years of experience in AT and AAC assessment and treatment with both the pediatric and adult populations. Katie has presented at the state and national level on AAC topics and she has University teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate level.

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