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AAC and the Community of Practice paradigm: how newcomers learn from veterans

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AAC has been an interdisciplinary field from its very onset. Back in the late 1960s, Margrit Beesley and Shirley McNaughton (education and speech language pathology professionals) began working together to figure out how to further communication possibilities for children with neuromotor disabilities (McNaughton, 1990); they discovered Semantology/Blissymbolics, created by the engineer Charles Bliss, who could also be described as a semiotician. The Community of Practice paradigm is a theoretical framework that comes from the field of Social Sciences/Anthropology, which has been applied to Education, Economy, and the Arts, among various other domains (Lave & Wenger, 1991). The authors who coined the term and developed research on the approach are Jean Lave (1997) and Etienne Wenger (1998). When we look at AAC through the lens of the Community of Practice paradigm, interdisciplinarity broadens beyond health, education and engineering, the fields traditionally involved in AAC, to encompass professionals concerned with human interaction, culture, heritage, community learning and belonging. Because AAC is eminently an area of practice, it makes sense to look at professional development in AAC as Communities of Practice where people learn about AAC from each other, through participation and practice. The aim of this paper is to present ideas developed by Lave and Wenger and their collaborators and relate them to how newcomers learn from veterans in various contexts, such as university internship, clinical practice and inclusive and special education. The analysis will be based on experiences carried out in Brazil, mainly in the state of São Paulo.


Lucia Reily    
University of Campinas


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