When a student is provided an AAC device, the next part is to think about, how do we teach it? How do we support it? How do we write goals in the IEP.
Remembering that goals must be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely, when it comes to AAC, we must also consider that who, what, when, where and how.
- Who does our student need to communicate with?
- What do they need to be able to communicate for?
- When do they communicate?
- Where do they go in their lives?
- How are they going to communicate?
There are 4 primary functions of AAC. This should be the heart of your IEP goals:
- Expression of wants and needs
- Exchange of information
- Social closeness
- Social etiquette
At different ages, what we want to communicate changes. When we are very young it is about wants and needs plus social closeness changing through the years, when we are adolescent it is still social closeness but also exchange of information. Take into consideration where your client is in the communication process. What is important to him/her. Know the purpose (see Janice Light's questionnaire about picking the right vocabulary. This will help you to choose your goals. The purpose of the communication.)
Communication Competence is another area to consider in your goal writing:
- Linguistic: Receptive and expressive language skills as well as the ability to use the symbols of a communication system to create messages with complex meanings.
- Operational:Technical Skills to operate AAC systems. Includes the symbol system and hardware.
- Social: Skills in the social rules of interaction. Knowledge and judgment needed to initiate, maintain, and terminate interactions.
- Strategic: Compensatory strategies that AAC users require to overcome communication breakdowns.
IEP goal writing can be difficult or feel overwhelming. Planning goals that cover what they should learn by the end of the year can be challenging. Beyond that making sure they won’t get frustrated or bored while being taught to reach that goal is even more challenging but probably more important.
Teaching symbol representation skills for objects and pictures Teaching the vocabulary contents of the communication board or device
A speech-language pathologist knowledgeable in the use of AAC techniques and strategies should direct an intervention program. The ultimate goal of an AAC intervention is to enable the augmented communicator to develop communication skills that are socially and linguistically appropriate to their abilities. AAC intervention goals may include any of the following:
- Teaching symbol representation skills for objects and pictures.
- Teaching the vocabulary contents of the communication board or device.
- Teaching encoding strategies to navigate a device or to access vocabulary stored with a device.
- Facilitating language development commensurate with language-comprehension skill.
- Teaching phonics and phonemic awareness.
- Facilitating literacy skills.
- Developing the pragmatic skills needed to ensure effective social communication.
- Developing the physical skills to consistently and reliably access a communication device through direct selection or an alternative mode of access (e.g., switch).
The duration and intensity of services will vary with the needs of the individual, but should include both direct and indirect service time. Direct service time is time spent with the augmented communicator addressing communication needs. Indirect time is time the speech-language pathologist dedicates to designing, fabricating and upgrading the AAC system.
Resources for writing AAC goals:
- Gail M. Van Tatenhove, MS, CCC-SLP has provided a powerpoint entitled, “AAC in the IEP”.
- The AAC Institute has provided: Writing IEP Goals? Start by Asking Questions by Robin Wisner, not specifically for AAC but more about asking ourselves questions that will help us to avoid those repetitive, testing type activities being used in conjunction with our kids’ IEP goals.
- Documenting Assistive Technology in the IEP Developed by the Georgia Project for Assistive Technology walks you through each step of the IEP process, including writing goals.
- Dynamic AAC Goals Grid provides a wonderful planning guide/checklist to help you walk through the process of seeing where the gaps are.
- DynaVox "Writing Goals" Tips providing the SMART approach: Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time Limited
- PrAACtical Suggestions: Writing Goals for People Learning AAC discusses AAC as a means to an end. A focus on language and communication means that we have to consider all of the various ways that the person communicates. PrAACtical AAC Goals Sample goals can serve as inspiration to develop specific, measurable, individualized AAC goals. They also have a nice, short article entitled: “I Made a Communication Board. Now What?” that can be very helpful in guiding your teaching approach.
- How I Do It: Writing IEP Goals for Students Who Use AAC with Lauren Enders providing a very valuable perspective on writing IEP goals for students who use or need AAC and some wonderful resources.
- Linda Burkhart has a guide, entitled: Writing IEP Goals and Objectives for Authentic Communication for Children with Complex Communication Needs
- SpeakingofSpeech offers an actual goal bank for supporting AAC use.
- USHAonline provides Sample AAC Goals:The goal is the measurable educational literacy goal. How to set goals for assistive technology in an IEP.
And last, always remember the Communication Bill of Rights. Using these to help in developing your goals would always be beneficial.