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Designing effective AAC systems for young children with complex communication needs to support communication development

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AAC systems are critical tools to support the language and communication development of young children with complex communication needs. Unfortunately, there are few guidelines to support parents, clinicians, and AAC manufacturers/ app developers in designing and customizing effective AAC systems/apps for young children. Most current AAC systems/apps are not research-based. When AAC systems are well designed, they may enhance communication and language outcomes for children with complex communication needs. However, poorly-designed AAC systems may impede language learning and communication effectiveness. This session will discuss a series of research studies that have investigated techniques to optimize the design of AAC systems/apps for young children with CCN to increase appeal, reduce learning demands, and ultimately promote language, literacy, and communication development. The session will present examples of effective vocabulary, representations, organizations, layouts, navigation, output, and programming and will share research results from recent studies to support these guidelines. Videotaped case examples will be used to illustrate the effects of these designs on the communication of young children with CCN.


Janice Light    
Penn State University
United States


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