top of page

AAC Communication Partners

Module 4: Partnerships in Action


Module 4 builds on the design and implementation principles of AAC to explore how communication partnerships work on a day-by-day basis. We learn about the importance of prompting hierarchies, and the range of technologies that enable AAC. We then look at a communication partnership that is succeeding through putting these principles into practice.

The learning objectives for this module are:

  • Appreciate the significance of the different levels of prompting and how, when used as a hierarchy, they contribute to achieving the goal of independent communication

  • Understand how diverse technologies are used together to create effective and robust communication systems

  • Understand how a person can grow linguistically through the effective application of AAC’s Triadic Model

4.1 Prompting Hierarchy
In this tutorial, Hillary sets out the principles for prompting – the different ways in which communication partners work with those using AAC to develop their mastery of AAC devices. Here, the objective is to empower students as independent communicators by enabling them to provide outputs from their AAC devices as quickly as possible.

Hillary describes the distinction between prompting and modeling. She explains how different ways of prompting are best understood as a hierarchy, ranging from full physical assistance through to visual prompting. She emphasises the importance of “wait time”; of giving the AAC user the opportunity to initiate communication.

After you have watched this video, consider the following:

  1. How can prompting, used inappropriately, inhibit independent communication by contributing to prompting dependency?

  2. Why is hand-under-hand physical prompting so important? How does it contribute to confidence and independence?

  3. How would you manage a situation in which those using AAC were working together with verbal communicators? What techniques could you use to ensure that those using AAC were afforded sufficient wait time to express themselves?




4.2 Using Technology
Here, Hillary explains the categories of lite-tech, mid-tech and hi-tech and how communication partners use these together to create an effective communication system. These uses of technology are demonstrated with five examples:

  1. Brittany demonstrates how dominoes, a white board and an iPhone are used together;

  2. Ally shows how language boards and AAC devices are used together, to develop students’ communication skills;

  3. Casey’s group works with their AAC devices while Casey uses a large language board to create a sentence;

  4. Sarah explains how the Big Spinner Game is used to build sentences;

  5. Nerissa works with Beth to program Kate’s Tobii Dynavox, a high-tech AAC device that uses eye gaze technology to enable Kate to communicate by looking at symbols on her screen.

After you have watched this video, consider the following:

  1. Communication partners are essential guides across all these levels of technology. List the full set of roles that they play across the five examples used in this video;

  2. Earlier, Nerissa and Hillary have emphasized the importance of “modeling.” Reflect on the ways in which these communication partners have modeled for the purposes of Aided Language Stimulation;

  3. Replay the video, now looking for the ways in which communication partners are using the prompting hierarchy that Hillary explained earlier.




4.3 Bob, Jenny and Sam
In this case study of partnerships in action, Nerissa introduces us to communication partners Bob and Jenny, and to Sam, who has made exceptional progress in learning to use his AAC device.

Nerissa explains to Bob that the vocabulary available to Sam through his AAC device must be continually augmented to allow Sam to grow linguistically. She encourages Bob to use the device himself so that Sam can see how it’s done.

Jenny demonstrates how she has used lite-tech to complement the home page on Sam’s device. Her objective is to “model up;” to show Sam how to improve his sentence construction through the use of the infinitive.

Bob – himself new to using an AAC device – provides key feedback from working with Sam, that enables Nerissa and Jenny to see what adaptations they need to make to the overlays on Sam’s talker.

After you have watched this video, consider the following before taking the quiz:

  1. Look for the ways in which Sam is allowed “wait time” to express himself, and notice how this puts Sam in control of his expressive intentions;

  2. Recall the concept of “input/output asymmetry.” How is Nerissa encouraging Bob to apply this principle in his communication partnership with Sam?

  3. What does Nerissa mean by “modeling up,” and how is this demonstrated in this case study?


Great - now you're ready for Module 5 …

Cancellation Policy: Commūnicāre, LLC reserves the right to cancel a class based on low registration. If a class is cancelled, participants will be notified and can either transfer their registration to another class or request a refund. 


Refund Policy: Refunds will not be issued if a participant is unable to attend a class. However, registration may be transferred to another class, if available.

Complaint Policy: If you are not satisfied with the course you purchased, or have questions, comments or concern, please contact our Professional Development Coordinator

bottom of page