AAC Devices: Tip of the Iceberg There’s More to Good AAC Implementation Than Meets the Eye

By Ruth Morgan M.S. CCC-SLP  and Ashley Robinson M.S. CCC-SLP, ATP


How often have you heard this?:  “I saw XYZ new device and I think it would be great for my student,” or “Last night I saw XYZ device on tv and it was a miracle!”

High tech AAC devices are just the tip of the iceberg of things that need to be in place to make students successful communicators. Here are 10 other key components.


Image by Ruth Morgan. Use but PLEASE CREDIT

    1. Systematically organized core and fringe vocabulary. Here are some examples:
    2. Peer language models. This doesn’t even have to be other device users. Kids need to see other kids using language.
    3. Opportunities for functional communication (including commenting, asking questions, greetings/salutations, requesting, and rejecting). Not just making choices
      • The Communication Matrix is one of many tools that allows you to see a range of communicative functions
    4. Data collection methods
    5. Lite Tech backups should always be in place for high tech devices. Batteries tend to die at the most inopportune times.
    6. Room for growth. Students need to be able to combine symbols to make more complex language. Always be thinking ahead.
    7. IEPs with SMART goals
    8. Training and planning time for staff. This is crucial!!!
    9. Adult modeling of AAC use.
    10. Stakeholder support (including parents and administration) for funding of devices and implementation of all of the above!


If teams focus solely on the device (the tip of the iceberg), then you may very well end up with a really expensive book end or fancy choice board.  What’s underneath the surface is vital to successful implementation.


Author Bios:

Ruth Morgan is a full-time speech language pathologist at Ephesus Elementary school and author of Chapel Hill Snippets. You can find her materials on Teachers Pay Teachers.


Ashley Robinson splits her time between providing speech language pathology services at the secondary level and working as part of the district Assistive Technology team. 



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