Light, J. & McNaughton, D. (April 2015). Designing AAC Research and Intervention to Improve Outcomes for Individuals with Complex Communication Needs. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 22:1-12. [Download as pdf]
There is a rapidly growing body of research that demonstrates the positive effects of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) intervention on the communication of children and adults with complex communication needs. Despite the positive impact of many AAC interventions, however, many individuals with complex communication needs continue to experience serious challenges participating in educational, vocational, healthcare, and community environments. In this paper, we apply the framework proposed by the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) to illustrate the need to re-think AAC intervention to improve outcomes for individuals with complex communication needs, and to foster a new generation of intervention research that will provide a solid foundation for improved services. Specifically, the paper emphasizes the need to take a more holistic view of communication intervention and highlights the following key principles to guide AAC intervention and research: (a) build on the individual’s strengths and focus on the integration of skills to maximize communication, (b) focus on the individual’s participation in real-world contexts, (c) address psychosocial factors as well as skills, and (d) attend to extrinsic environmental factors as well as intrinsic factors related to the individual who requires AAC.