Prompts and Cues


Wait Time

15-30 seconds with expectant/encouraging facial expression


Indirect (ore less direct) Verbal

"Maybe you have something to say."


Gesture and Direct Verbal

Point to the device, or "your talker might help me understand."



Show 2-3 options that may meet the need (imitation is not required).


How and when to use prompts and cues?


Don't use prompts and cues until there has been a significant period of aided language input (modeling).


How long is a considerable period? Hard to say precisely, but there needs to be an extended period of modeling without expectation of use by the learner. 

When we use prompts and cues, we do it in response to initiation from the AAC learner. By this, I mean they have done something that makes me think they have something to say. Maybe they vocalized, gestured, or moved their body. 


If they have communicated clearly through these methods, we don't prompt! We don't want to make it work by making them repeat it! Instead, we use their system to reflect on what they have expressed. ⁣


Teaching commenting


Strategies you can use to support commenting:

• Modeling: 

Improve how frequently your AAC user gets to see other people comment. Pick engaging activities and focus on demonstrating commenting while you model.


• Verbal Referencing: 

Build on the non-symbolic expression of preferences (gestures, facial expressions, vocalizations, body language). Describe the communication behaviors you see and model comments that might match. For example, "You made a funny face when you tasted that. Maybe it's yuck or gross" or "You're jumping up and down. So exciting!"

• Co-Authored or Scaffolded Writing:

Increase your AAC user's opportunities to comment through a shared writing task. It might include writing a letter, journaling about an event, writing movie reviews, or writing a poem. These activities are great because they give a shared context to comment for a real purpose. Invite the AAC user to contribute. Accept any communication modality as contributing. The goal is for your AAC user to observe and experience commenting and not demonstrate the skill independently. 


Teaching Yes & No


Teaching yes/no responses is not about understanding. AAC users need a reliable way to indicate yes/no before they can answer questions. Children who communicate through speech learn yes/no words or movements. Sometimes their use matches their intent, sometimes not. Adults have to give them feedback, and they adjust over time. We need to provide the same time and feedback to individuals with complex communication needs.


How to approach it?

• Explicit motor practice for head nods. Practice the movements together. 

• Lots of verbal referencing when we notice the learner is moving their head. 

• Lots of "failure-free" opportunities to practice head nods.

• Lots of modeling of head nods with verbal referencing: "I'm moving my head from side to side, I'm saying no".


Rhythmical Intentions


"Rhythmical Intention is a unique way of facilitation in conductive education that engages the student's mental readiness to complete coordinated voluntary movements. Physical tasks are verbalized rhythmically to prepare the student mentally to approach the action and break complex movements into a motor plan." 


This technique comes from Conductive Education. It's excellent for teaching movements for communication. Practice the exercises together. In groups, we use a call and repeat format. The speed is approximately 60 beats per minute to encourage a good pace for intentional movement. Our intonation goes down at the end of a movement.


When we practice, it's not about compliance, but about developing the internal language and ability to intend the action. Repeated practice over time is more important than performing the skill in any one practice opportunity.


-I move my head down, down down

-I move my head up, up up

-I nod my head and I say yes

-I shake my head and I say no

-I move my head to the middle, middle middle

-I nod my head and I say yes

-I move my head to the other side, side side


Reasons to teach head nods


• Everyone recognizes them, even unfamiliar communication partners. Head nods are universal.

• Individuals who can use head nods are often judged as being more "able". Yes, it's unfair.

• Head nods are not partner dependent. The learner doesn't need to rely on anyone to set up or offer assistance because they can do it themselves. 

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