If you want your adult clients with speech and language impairments to improve communication skills, begin by carefully considering some short-term goals needed to achieve “communication competence.”

The goal of communication—whether via AAC, verbal, written, hand-drawn or gestured modalities—is to connect with others.

To meet the goal of communication competence while using an AAC device, there are typically four areas of skills to address: operational, linguistic, social, and strategic competencies. The goals that you set surrounding these competencies should be targeted in concert and should be SMART: Specific (and personal to the client), Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely.

First, let’s take a look at the communication competencies and what relates to each as they pertain to AAC devices.

Operational Competence

  • Powering the device on/off
  • Adjusting the volume
  • Accessing the information on the screen; visual field scanning, direct selection, etc.
  • Developing proficiency in using the system efficiently

Linguistic Competence

  • Understanding and using the language of the device, whether it contains symbolic or concrete icons, and/or written words
  • Using the device for a variety of communication functions: greeting, requesting, commenting, disagreeing, protesting, sharing information, reciting stories/songs/prayers, etc.
  • Using vernacular that is commonly expressed at home, with family, with friends, and at school/work
  • Combining words into phrases/sentences

Social Competence

  • Engaging in discourse: greeting, replying, turn-taking, introducing and maintaining a topic, changing a topic, ending a conversation, etc.
  • Connecting through expression of wants and needs, information, questions, comments, protests, feelings, etc.

Strategic Competence

  • Repairing communication breakdown
  • Using the most effective communication method and vocabulary for the context of the situation
  • Using compensatory strategies within the AAC system for effective communication

Now, let’s review some examples of AAC-related goals for developing each communication competency in order to have an effective connection.

Operational Goals

  • Patient will increase communication effectiveness by adjusting the volume of the AAC device so that it is audible to the listener in quiet or in a noisier situation, independently, in 80% of opportunities.
  • Patient will increase communication effectiveness by selecting an icon from a category page to respond to a multiple-choice question, independently, with 90% accuracy.

Linguistic Goals

  • Patient will reduce medical risks by communicating medical information and physical symptoms with 80% accuracy.
  • Patient will reduce safety risks by requesting help to meet personal needs in 4 out of 5 opportunities.
  • Patient will participate in a conversation regarding a thematic activity/hobby, using a word or pre-programmed phrase with 80% accuracy.

Social Goals

  • Patient will reduce social isolation risks by using common social messages for greeting, introduction, and turn-taking in 4 out of 5 opportunities.
  • Patient will use the AAC device to engage in conversation via phone, with a friend/family member three times in one week.
  • Patient will use the AAC device to comment, ask questions, or provide opinions on a topic in 4 out of 5 opportunities.

Strategic Goals

  • Patient will increase communication effectiveness by clarifying information with 80% accuracy.
  • Patient will use text-to-speech, white board, or direct icon selection to relay information or respond to a question with 80% accuracy.

If you have any questions or would like more information about developing AAC goals from communication competencies, a Lingraphica SLP Clinical Consultant is readily available to assist with writing ‘SMART’ goals for your clients using AAC.

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