Augmentative and Alternative Communication: From Novice to Expert Clinician

By John McCarthy, PhD, CCC-SLP and Aimee Dietz, PhD, CCC-SLP

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication by John McCarthy and Aimee Dietz

Understanding the personal story of an individual who uses augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) can have a positive impact on the attitudes of people without disabilities toward that individual (McCarthy, Donofrio-Horwitz, & Smucker, 2010). Almost any AAC specialist has story after story of moments when they have helped reveal the true abilities of an individual through AAC:

• The eight-year-old boy with cerebral palsy who everyone assumed had below average intellectual ability and presymbolic language skills, was in fact bilingual.
• The forty-year-old woman with bulbar onset amyotrophic lateral sclerosis who cannot dress or feed herself, but still manages her finances, parents her children, and makes end-of-life decisions.
• The eighteen-year-old girl with autism spectrum disorder whose potential to contribute to society was doubted, yet planned for employment after high school and managed a new mobile device-based communication system.
• The fifty-two-year-old man with stroke-induced aphasia who medical staff assumed was “incompetent”; however, still made informed decisions about medical care and enjoyed friendly banter on the golf course with his adult sons.  Continue reading