Communicating with someone who uses an AAC device

By: Ali Sheperd

Posted: 26th July 2018

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. There are many forms of AAC from no-tech picture boards to high-tech computerised speaking devices. People may need AAC due to a variety of reasons, but it is used to assist communication. It is a way of allowing a person to get their message across if they are unable to communicate this effectively by ‘typical’ means of communication.

Communicating with someone who uses an AAC device may be daunting when this is unfamiliar to you. However, there is a lot of simple advice out there that you can follow, to reduce the anxiety and stress that may accompany this.

Modify the environment

In order to prepare for an effective conversation it is ideal to modify the environment around you when possible. You can do this by reducing background noise or turning off radios and TV’s. This will help you and the AAC user focus on the conversation and each other’s messages.

Be seen

As well as the environment, it is also important to modify yourself within your environment. This means ensuring the AAC user can see you when you are talking to them. Therefore, they can see all of the non-verbal cues we use when we communicate. This could be facial expressions, body language, gaze and gestures. This will help the AAC user understand your message and will allow them to pick up on social cues for turn-taking and topic changing.

Be patient

It is very important to be patient when communicating with an AAC user. Due to the nature of their device and how they use it to communicate, conversations will take a longer amount of time compared to those that do not use AAC. Considering this, it is also important not to finish their sentences, despite the amount of time it takes for them to communicate their message. By finishing an AAC user’s sentences leads to frustration and often confusion as messages may be misunderstood and it is more difficult for them to repair your understanding.

Be clear

You must make sure that your communication is clear. This means introducing one topic at a time so that conversations do not get confused and letting them know when you understand them or when you don’t understand them. This will help the AAC user to keep the conversation on track and to understand you.

And finally, it is also important to relax! The AAC user will often understand that communicating with them can be seen as a daunting experience if they have not done it before. Just as you have to give them time, they must give you time. Consider these tips and communicate together as a team.

If you feel you may benefit from speech and language therapy or would like any more information on our services please email or call 0330 088 5643.

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