2003 Conference Proceedings

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Mary Ann Abbott, M.A., CCC-SLP, ATP
AAC Assessor, Los Angeles Unified School District
2302 S. Gramercy Place
Los Angeles, CA 90018
Phone: (323) 932-4620 ext. 1030
Fax: (413) 702-9532
Email: atacslp@hotmail.com

Pat Perreault
Prentke Romich Company
1022 Heyl Rd.
Wooster, OH 44691
Phone: (805) 646-8276
Fax: (805) 646-8276
Email: pper@pacbell.net

This presentation outline an augmentative communication device implementation program consisting of four weeks of assignments for the home and school. The assignments are designed to help build a functional foundation for successful communication.

The purchase of a voice output communication device is an expensive decision and many funding sources insist on a trial rental period before purchase. A significant portion of the rental period time can be lost due to insufficient planning. The device arrives and no one is quite sure where to start. This program was created to give stakeholders four weeks of structured assignments designed to build an operational and linguistic foundation for successful communication. The target time period of four weeks was chosen to coincide with the usual rental period for a communication device trial, which is about four weeks.

Light (1989) suggests that competent communicators need to have abilities in four skill areas:

  1. Linguistic competence, which includes receptive and expressive language skills as well as the ability to use the symbols of a communication system to create messages with more complex meanings.

  2. Operational skills, which are the skills necessary to use the symbols of the communication system effectively and efficiently as well as the technical abilities needed to operate and maintain a voice output communication device.

  3. Social skills refer to the knowledge and judgment needed to initiate, maintain, and terminate interactions.

  4. Strategic skills include the compensatory strategies that AAC users require to overcome communication breakdowns.

The assignments contain elements of all four competencies. As part of the initial process, the roles and responsibilities for programming, maintenance, and instruction are assigned to the individual stakeholders. At the heart of the program are data collection sheets that are to be used to heighten the accountability of the parties involved in the decision making process. These data sheets also provide the concrete evidence of communicative competence using the chosen AAC device that may be required by the funding source in order to authorize the purchase of the communication device.

While this model was initially developed for the Vantage from the Prentke Romich Company, efforts have been made to design activities that can be generalized across a variety of communication devices. Modifications to the activities and reference to the appropriate sections of specific instruction manuals are provided if available. Activities are designed to scaffold or build on each other in order to increase generalization and practice opportunities.

Four weeks of instruction is far from sufficient to help an AAC user become an effective communicator. It is, however, enough time to begin to build a functional foundation for communication. At the end of the four-week period, the rental device will contain vocabulary and information that has been personalized for the AAC user. This vocabulary can be saved to the computer and downloaded into the new device after purchase, saving time and effort.

Communication device abandonment is a problem that has existed for a long time. This program could be adapted to fit the communicator who has had a communication device for some time but has lost interest and is in danger of abandoning his/her communication device. The guidelines and materials may be used to familiarize the staff at a new school with the student's communication device. Numerous strategies and examples, along with samples of protocols and checklists, will be shared with participants.


Cottier, C., Doyle, M., & Gilworth, K. (1997). Functional AAC intervention: A team approach. Bisbee, AZ: Imaginart.

Light, J. (1989). Toward a definition of communicative competence for individuals using augmentative and alternative communication systems. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 5, 137-144.

Light, J.C., & Binger, C. (1998). Building communicative competence with individuals who use augmentative and alternative communication. Baltimore: Paul Brooks Publishing Co.

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