Environmental Influence on AAC Device Use and Research Insights
AAC devices aren't just about tech; the environment and personal interactions matter a lot, too.
Vocabulary Limits: Many AAC devices focus on nouns, missing out on other essential words. This restricts conversations to basic functions such as requests and leaves out vital functions such as refusing or asking questions. Also, in standard English, creating a grammatically correct and clear sentence using only nouns in the positions of subject, verb, and object is challenging, if not impossible, without resorting to creative or non-standard interpretations. Crafting full sentences with a heavy noun emphasis, therefore, becomes tricky -- if not impossible.
Latency Time: Sometimes, users need a bit more time to find the right words on their device. However, this can sometimes disrupt the flow of a conversation, leading to potential awkward pauses -- which can sometimes cause a partner to interpret, non verbally, what a user might be trying to say.
Helpful, but...: Occasionally, people might step in to assist AAC users finish their thoughts. While the intent is kind, it can unintentionally overshadow what the AAC user is trying to express.
Ways to Improve:
Tweak the Device: Make it user-friendly. With faster word-finding, conversations become more fluid.
Broaden Word Choices: AAC devices should include a variety of core and fringe vocabulary — not just nouns but also verbs, adjectives, and more. Remember: you can rarely create sentences with only nouns, which are often fringe vocabulary words (e.g. YouTube). A diverse word selection paves the way for richer conversations.
Training for Friends & Family: Educating familiar conversation partners to be patient and allow the AAC user to lead can foster a more inclusive communication environment. When a new AAC user starts school, both their family and the school staff should receive training on how to use, model, and respond to the device in relevant situations.
Research Validates This...
There's strong research supporting these points. Works by Beukelman and Mirenda shed light on AAC's nuances, emphasizing the importance of a vast vocabulary and nurturing conversations. Many clinicians concur: understanding and addressing these aspects are pivotal for AAC users to engage in successful conversations.