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Presume Competence

What it is?


-Believing that learning and growth is possible for all 

-Focusing on teaching and providing enriching experiences 

-Providing access to robust supports and instruction

-Accepting what an AAC user can do now and partnering for growth

-Ongoing dynamic evaluation to improve understanding

-Focusing on personalized milestones and trajectory over developmental expectations

-Emphasizing and building on strengths 

-Essential for maximizing results for all users, including those who use AAC

What is not?

-Assuming specific abilities

-Providing intervention without careful evaluation

-Practicing outside the evidence-based

-Wishful thinking or fantasy


It's not about assuming existing, fully established skills. It's about being comprehensive, providing access, meeting learners where they are, keeping an open mind, focusing on strengths, and giving thoughtful supports.

User's competence

We must trust an individual's ability to communicate and learn, even if the person has communication difficulties. We presume competence.


To presume competence means to assume that the AAC users can think, learn, and understand.


Just because they can't answer doesn't mean they can't understand. You have to be supportive and always give them a chance. That's how you help them succeed!

Why is it so important to believe?

Presuming competence is known as "the least dangerous assumption". But why?

By presuming that they can hear, learn, and understand, you cause no harm. Even if you may be wrong, you still give them confidence. 

But what happens when you assume that the AAC user is incompetent? If you don't believe in the users' capacity, they can feel it and it can hurt their feelings. Low expectations affect the individual's future because he is likely to get frustrated. 

It's important to believe because you transmit what you feel to the user. 

"To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are."

How can we presume competence?

• Talk to the AAC user normally

Avoid very simplified language and speak at a normal speed. 

• Find ways that help the user to communicate

Communication can be possible through pictures, body language, speech-generating devices. Find the communication system that works best for them. 

• Pay attention to what the user is trying to tell you

Behavior is also a method of communication. Take into account the way he/she acts. The user might be trying to tell you something. 


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