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Communication Circles: Rehearsing, Practicing, Modeling and USING AAC with Friends!

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Communicative competence is described as ". . . the ability to communicate functionally in the natural environment and to adequately meet daily communication needs" (Light, 1989). For students who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and are in inclusive settings, this goal is very appropriate . . . and challenging! WHERE do we find the time to support students in learning skills they need to engage in successful interactive communication? We suggest starting ‘Communication Circles’ or circles of peers who support AAC users in learning and practicing skills. Additional goals include: peer interaction, generalization of AAC-related skills learned in speech and occupational therapy, and integration of AAC and curriculum objectives. Communication circles support target students weekly, carrying out activities designed jointly by professionals and team members. Circle members also provide support by keeping data and anecdotal notes.

We will discuss goals in all four areas of AAC:
• Linguistic Skills: teaching students to use core language generatively; supporting students in finding fringe vocabulary; scaffolding skills such as using negation
• Operational Skills: supporting students in fine-tuning switch, eye gaze, or direct selection; helping students learn device skills, such as increasing volume
• Social Skills: learning to take turns and to initiate; practicing the parts of a conversation
• Strategic Skills: scaffolding use of the alphabet to give clues, helping students learn strategies for speed and efficiency.

This presentation will include lecture, demonstration, brainstorming, and case studies. We will share outcomes, including helping target students grow their Circles of Communication Partners!


Caroline Musselwhite    
AAC Intervention
United States

Jan Pilling    
Brandon School District

Karen Keith    
Parent of student who uses AAC

Kim Smith    
Monck Public School

Beth Boyd    
Monck Public School


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