Making AAC in the Classroom Work!

I loved talking about AAC at the recent ATIA conference in Orlando, Florida! I am totally passionate about helping teachers embed AAC into their class programs and planning, regardless of what TYPE of AAC they are using!


Here are the slides from my presentation:


Included in the slides:

  • Roadblocks to AAC in the classroom and ways to overcome these.
  • Then some PRACTICAL ways that AAC can be embedded into any classroom.

Classrooms which create communication opportunities that are FUN, INTERACTIVE, PURPOSEFUL, MOTIVATING and ENGAGING, allow the greatest chance of success for a student using an AAC system or tool.

However, often we see ROADBLOCKS to AAC being used in the classroom; things that slow down or even stop AAC happening effectively- we need to acknowledge and change these things!

Roadblock #1. People give up too soon.

  • We need to be PERSISTENT – try and try and try again!
  • We need to be CONSISTENT – and give the child regular and reliable opportunities to see and learn an AAC tool. Repetition with variety!
  • We need to be FLEXIBLE – ready to evolve and make changes on the run to meet the changing needs of our students and the environment.
  • The team need to work hard on VOCABULARY PLANNING – the success of an AAC system and whether it is being used or not, can often come down to how much customisation and personalisation of the vocab has been done.
  • We need easy and instant access to our AAC tool/s
  • We need to keep on MODELLING – sometimes our students can need to see and understand an AAC tool being modelled for a long time, before they learn how to use it effectively – don’t give up too soon!

Roadblock #2. Lack of training and support.

  • It has never been easier to COLLECT EXAMPLES, of AAC being used in the classroom, with iPad and phone cameras so easy to access and use. Videos and photos can become very powerful tools to demonstrate to others how AAC can be used.
  • What Professional Development are staff accessing? Often training may focus on which buttons to push to operate and program an AAC tool, but are there opportunities for PD in ways to implement an AAC system in the classroom? Consider what learning can be done online (eg. how-to training videos are often readily available online now), vs. what training the team could do with practical ideas to actually make it happen!
  • It can be great to identify an AAC champion in the school – someone who is doing great things in AAC, that can support and mentor others.
  • We really need to SHARE – share resources, share videos, share what works and what doesn’t!
  • And don’t forget to DELEGATE – assign tasks to the team, remembering to match the right job to the right person.

Roadblock #3. People put all their eggs in one basket. It is common and maybe easier to try and make ONE AAC system fit all the students in a classroom or school, but this rarely works! Students, with their differing needs and skills could require a broad range of AAC tools. More than one AAC tool can co-exist in a classroom!

  • Don’t forget that some of the fabulous, symbol-based, low (light) tech resources that have always worked in a classroom, can still have a place! Just because you have a lovely shiny iPad, it doesn’t mean it cannot be used alongside other AAC tools. High tech and low tech can compliment each other; it doesn’t have to be one or the other!
  • Create an environment that supports and models MULTI-MODAL COMMUNICATION – different forms of AAC for different learners!

Now if you have stuck with me long enough, I will get off my soapbox now and tell you to head to the slides…..

From slide #39 onwards is where you will find lots of PRACTICAL ideas and examples of using AAC in the classroom. Lots of images and pictures of both low tech and high tech AAC tools. CHECK IT OUT!

AAC apps shown in the slides:

Book creation apps shown in the slides:

Interactive language apps shown in the slides:

as well as the Collins Big Cat books.

Another cool app to try, also mentioned in the slides:


Thanks to everyone who enthusiastically attended my session in Florida and for your lovely feedback. Hope to see you all again next year!



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About Amanda Hartmann

Amanda is a Speech Pathologist with over 17 years experience. She has worked within educational settings, as an Inclusive Technology Consultant with Spectronics , and currently focuses her time on her busy private practice.

Amanda is a Key Word Sign/Makaton Presenter, an official Proloquo2Go trainer and an official expert TBoxApps Trainer for Therapy Box. She is also a certified Apple Trainer and regularly runs iPad workshops to help schools integrate iPad technology into the classroom, for all learners.

Amanda has a special interest in supporting and developing communication, literacy and learning for a wide range of diverse learners, often through the use of visual tools, sign language and technology. She has spent many years providing therapy support and teacher/parent training in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) for students with complex communication needs, due to disabilities such as: Cerebral palsy and other Physical impairments, Visual impairment, Hearing impairment, Autism, Down Syndrome, Fragile X, Intellectual Impairment, Angelman Syndrome, Rett Syndrome and others. She also has specialist knowledge to support the literacy learning of students with learning difficulties, language impairments and other diverse learning needs. She is passionate about providing interactive and engaging presentations to educators, parents and therapists.

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