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Beyond Please & Thank You: The importance of teaching social communication to children using AAC

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Pragmatics encompass a wide variety of social skills that are linked to the language that AAC users need in everyday life. AAC typically focuses on teaching vocabulary, syntax, or conversational turning taking; however, there is a need to explicitly teach language in a social context. Children who use AAC frequently miss opportunities to receive meaningful responses from communication partners that can serve as the basis for relationship building because they lack experience with pragmatics. This talk will focus on theories underlying pragmatics instruction and how they can be adapted for AAC users who are learning language. Central Coherence Theory, Theory of Mind, and executive functioning abilities are factors that influence our capacity to communicate successfully in social interactions.

The instruction of social pragmatics is frequently an integral part of intervention for individuals on the autism spectrum. However, for children with complex communication needs, including those with severe/significant physical impairments or autism spectrum diagnoses this area of instruction can be limited. Potential obstacles for the development of mature social pragmatic skills for individuals with complex communication needs include language, situational, physical, and lack of experience with complex relationship building opportunities. By making pragmatics an inherent part of intervention, children can build language skills that generalize and enhance their overall communicative competence.


Mira Shah    
United States

Kristen Gray    
A T for ALL
United States


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