Minding Your AAC Manners, 2017 Style

Published: 31/10/2017 18:15

There are oh-so many options in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) solutions these days. You can get a dedicated or non-dedicated AAC device, communication software as an app for tablets, and you even have the option of getting a funded or non-funded version of the same special needs communication device, like with the Tobii Dynavox Indi™ and Tobii Dynavox I-110 we introduced this year. 

In the midst of all these options, one thing remains sacred: 

Minding your AAC manners.

AAC devices look and feel like store-bought technologies now more than any time in recent history. The cosmetic similarities, along with the fact that smart phones and other handheld technologies are visible everywhere, sheds new light on some longstanding if unwritten rules of etiquette for AAC use. This is good news and the current celebration of AAC Awareness Month seems a fitting occasion to bring it up.
So, just what do those old rules mean for communication partners and potential communication partners? Three words that sum up the answer are patience, camaraderie, and respect. Here’s why…


Communication through devices like the Indi and I-110 is about as close to real time communication as anyone can get in the absence of human speech. Not only is some wait time to be expected, waiting is key to successful AAC use, as it is for success in more common modes of interaction. People often prefer texting or messaging each other through an app, for instance, though it typically involves more time than talking. An AAC device user may likewise need a little extra time to initiate and respond in conversations. The difference is that unlike a phone or texting app, the device is their voice. Let them take their time. You can help set the tone by taking your time instead of fidgeting or otherwise attempting to rush things. Wait to hear what they have to say, listen and respond.


Universally, one of the best ways to connect with others is, well, by talking. The thing is, meeting someone who uses a communication device or one of the best AAC apps like Tobii Dynavox Snap™ Core First® on a tablet computer may not seem so unusual anymore given our current technological environment. Just remember why the person uses it. Encourage them to do so. Open-ended questions are a good start. Maybe pull up a favorite app or website on your phone and chat about that.
No need to be overly concerned with formalities. Individuals who use AAC technology often have preprogrammed icebreakers that explain their way of communicating and tell about themselves. Some share more than others and chances are they’ll expect you to share something about yourself, too. Isn’t that the true spirit of communication?


While AAC use may seem like a novelty if you haven’t seen it in action, it’s just part of life for those who rely on it. When you meet an AAC device user, you may catch them when they’re pressed for time or not up for a conversation—or you may be in that boat.

Two ways to find out:

  • Take note of each other’s nonverbal cues.
  • Just ask.

Communication and mutual respect go together. Both dovetail with independence, which AAC technology makes possible for those without a voice of their own.
Today’s unprecedented variety of AAC solutions is indeed empowering for our users, their friends and loved ones. But old-fashioned is OK when it comes to minding your AAC manners. Err on the side of common courtesy and you’re sure to keep that power going!


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