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Using peers to support increased AAC use

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According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is a basic human need to belong. People have a need to fit in, feel accepted, and have friendships. However, people with complex communication needs (CCN) are often seen as different, their way of communicating may be uncomfortable for others, and they often have fewer opportunities to build friendships. They often use a method of communication that no one else in their environment uses and classmates are often told to not touch the system, making it harder to build the social validity of alternate forms of communication and acceptance of the person who uses AAC. However, research has shown that when peers and other communication partners use a student's system functionally for their own messages, it not only normalizes the way of communicating, but increases use by the person with CCN. Additionally, partners using an AAC system can increase understanding of the challenges an AAC user faces. In this session, the presenters will discuss how they have supported peers to use students’ AAC systems in a structured setting in order to increase the peers’ interest and willingness to interact with their classmate with CCN, increase the motivation of the person with CCN to use their systems, create a safe and positive communication environment overall, increase functional use of AAC across settings, and support language development of students with CCN.


Heidi Rabe    
Northern Suburban Special Education District
United States

Jennifer Knudson    
Norther Suburban Special Education District
United States


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