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Communication Challenges of an AAC-using College Student: How I Handle Brush-offs and Interruptions

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The primary author, an AAC consumer who relies on single-switch scanning to communicate with an SGD, will describe communication challenges he encountered as a freshman at a local Community College. In particular, he will list communication difficulties he experienced in campus interactions with peers, professors and staff, including: entering conversations, asking questions about lectures and assignments in a timely manner, responding rapidly to passers-by, dealing with interruptions and unwanted terminations of interactions by others, and answering questions and commenting rapidly enough to maintain the attention of his listeners. The presenters will analyze these communication breakdowns using conversational analysis techniques and will then describe modifications to the AAC system to improve the speed with which the first author could participate in real-time interactions on campus. Selected examples of modifications include: construction of instant messages to regulate interactions; judicious placement of phrases within the existing block-style scanning array. The primary author will then discuss how he practiced greeting, acknowledging, and regulating interactions in role-plays. Finally, the first author will summarize how his campus interactions changed between as a result of these modifications. General information regarding the first author’s high school transition-to-college program, assistive technologies, and campus supports will also be provided.


Mark Steidl    
United States

Kathryn Garrett    
Children's Institute
United States

Diana Jordan    
Pittsburgh Public Schools
United States


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