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AAC Communication Partners

Module 5: Communication Partners


In further developing the work of communication partners in AAC, this module focusses on the central role of paraprofessionals. We hear from a range of paraprofessionals about their work and then look in more detail and the ways in which two communication partners are working. This provides rich material for reflection on partnerships in action.

The learning objectives for this module are:

  • Have an appreciation of the role that paraprofessionals play as communication partners, and of the importance of paraprofessional being trained in AAC

  • See AAC from the perspective of a paraprofessional, and understand how to work with paraprofessionals to develop their roles as communication partners

  • Understand how to map out a training session for paraprofessionals




5.1 Paraprofessionals
Here, Hillary and Jeeva talk about the importance of paraprofessionals in AAC.
Hillary works with a group of paraprofessionals to develop their competencies as AAC communication partners. We hear from Ronaldo, Christie and Angel on the value of their work.

Colleen has been working as an AAC paraprofessional for a number of years. We follow her through a typical set of tasks, ranging from the combined use of lite-tech and an AAC device, through to stimulating expressive communication by offering a rich set of experiences.

After you have watched this video, consider the following:

  1. Notice how, during Hillary’s session with a group of paraprofessionals, Mattias joins in. Relate this to the emphasis that special educators Casey and Michelle placed, in an earlier video, on the importance of integrating those using AAC into diverse language communities.

  2. Jeeva makes the point that, rather than drawing a distinction between “verbal” and “non-verbal” communicators, paraprofessionals need to think in terms of “complex communication needs”. Why is this important?

  3. In describing her work as a paraprofessional with her student, Colleen says: “I’m like her switch”. What does she mean, and how is this similar to the way in which Nerissa defined the relationship between Bob and his student Sam in the earlier movie that you watched?




5.2 Strategies for Support
Here, paraprofessionals Debbie and Tony describe their work with their students, and their own learning journeys as communication partners.

Debbie emphasizes the importance of engagement, and of a supportive emotional attitude; calm, patient, caring, fun. She has found small group training sessions valuable, particularly when the complexities of AAC have been broken down into logical steps.

Tony is an experienced paraprofessional, who finds developmental opportunities such as the summer camp valuable for refreshing his AAC skills. He emphasizes the value of learning through doing, working with AAC devices until he is confident how they should be used. This has enabled him to program and customize Nathanial’s talker to his specific requirements.

After you have watched this video, consider the following:

  1. How does Tony’s description of his work with Nathanial show how an individual’s academic requirements should be incorporated into AAC?

  2. Christian is at the point of becoming an independent communicator. How does Debbie’s approach to AAC nurture Christian’s growing competence?

  3. How would you design a training session for a paraprofessional, based on Debbie and Tony’s insights?


5.3 Working Together
In this tutorial with the graduate interns, Hillary and Nerissa share what they have learned about working with communication partners. They talk about the importance of instrumental rules: stopping before prompting; remembering the importance of prompting hierarchies; avoiding device dependency; avoiding being overwhelmed by technical language.

The graduate interns talk about what has been valuable to them in developing their competency in AAC: learning in small groups; being able to take an AAC device home to practice; experimenting with overlays.

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

  1. Hillary talks about “learning in the moment”. What does she mean?

  2. Nerissa has learned to step back in order to give communication partners lots of opportunities to develop their abilities through practice. How could you create similar scenarios for these kinds of learning opportunities?

  3. Peer support is important for communication partners, but is often difficult to achieve. How could we design better opportunities for paraprofessionals to get together and learn from one another?






Now go to the final component in this course, Module 6….

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

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