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Two Words for Everything; the importance of yes/no choices

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Early in an AAC assessment it is common to check how the person with minimal speech indicates ‘yes’ and ‘no’. It is concerning to discover many school-age children, teens and adults have no yes/no strategy, despite attending special education programs involving speech therapy. When a person cannot answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, their carers often say things like “He can make it clear if she doesn’t want something” or “If she wants something she’ll reach for it.” When asked how she can say whether she want to go for a walk or for a drive, the carers look blank. Some of these people have a PECS folder or a simple choice board, but typically these do not include ‘yes’ and ‘no’.

Sometimes these people are assumed not to understand speech, or the concept of ‘yes’ and ‘no’. This assumption is generally mistaken, as becomes clear when the person with minimal speech is offered a large two-button device that displays ‘yes’ and ‘no’ cards and says ‘yes’ and ‘no’. Once the use of this is demonstrated, the person typically uses it to answer a wide range of age-appropriate yes/no questions. They then take yes/no displays home to use while assessment for more complex AAC systems continues.

In some other cases it appears that ‘yes’ and ‘no’ strategies have been overlooked, almost accidentally, by therapists or teachers without an AAC background.
This poster will include a large selection of yes/no strategies suitable for people with varying disabilities.


Rosemary Crossley    
Anne McDonald Centre

Leslie Zimmerman    
Anne McDonald Centre


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