This session has been completed.

Augmentative and Alternate Communication for Kids with Complex Communication Needs

Registration Closed
Facilitator(s): Chris Bugaj
This is a multi-day event.
Day 1Aug 29, 2019 (9:00 am to 3:30 pm)
Day 2Aug 30, 2019 (9:00 am to 3:30 pm)
(includes lunch, which is not prepared in a nut/gluten-free environment)
Location: Calgary (Alberta Children's Hospital)
2888 Shaganappi Trail NW
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Course code: 19-IE-492

Target Audience

Teachers of students with Complex Communication Needs, Speech Language Pathologists and Occupational Therapists working with students with Complex Communication Needs

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About this learning opportunity

If a student is not successfully using verbal speech as her or his primary form of expression, the educators working with that student should be considering augmentative/alternative communication. Working to provide students with a way to communicate is often a difficult task wrought with barriers and challenges. Learning language is less like one person opening a locked door and more like a team of construction workers building a house. Rarely is it the case that a dynamic augmentative communication device is put in place and then suddenly scores of language come spilling out of a student without persistent, focused support. It takes a consistent, collaborative effort to construct a functional language system. 

All too often, the belief that a child is too young, too disabled, or simply not ready prevents or delays the implementation of a robust AAC system to help learn language. In this session we will examine practices for coaching educational professionals and families in the use of robust communication systems for early language learners which embed the concept of presuming an individual’s competence by adopting the philosophy of the Least Dangerous Assumption. 

Together we’ll explore proven strategies for teaching even the youngest students how to become effective, functional communicators by teaching them language and by engineering the school, home and community environments so that all communicators have opportunities for rich, meaningful practice of language in the context of everyday routines. This session will embed current research in use of AAC.  

We will take an indepth look at the role of SLPs and others in how to coach communication partners and how coaching practices empower parents and educators to take ownership of promoting the use of AAC systems in every lesson, activity, and endeavor all day long in all environments. Participants will explore the importance of core vocabulary for all early language learners, as well as how to integrate fringe vocabulary that enhances and enriches successful communication. The importance of aided language stimulation, motor planning,  and engineering the environment for communication will be highlighted throughout the session.  Explore tools and strategies to collect data to demonstrate progress and next steps needed. Leave equipped with effective methodologies, strategies and perspectives necessary to implement AAC systems that work to usher students down a path and into a world where they become functional communicators. 

·         Outcome goals for the participants 

1.Learn the definition of Spontaneous Novel Utterance Generation, the Least Dangerous Assumption, and Core Vocabulary and how to implement a language system based on using the most frequently used words. 

2. Discuss the importance of motor planning and aided language stimulation in the development of functional communication systems. 

3. Discuss methodologies for facilitation of ongoing coaching related to professional learning to improve the skills of communication partners of AAC users.

4. Create a plan of action for how to plan lessons and implement language across every environment.


This learning opportunity is being subsidized through funding from Alberta Education.

About the facilitator(s)

Christopher Bugaj is a founding member of the Assistive Technology Team for Loudoun County Public Schools in Ashburn, Virginia, and co?author of The Practical (and Fun) Guide to Assistive Technology in Public Schools (ISTE). He hosts the award-winning podcast A.T.TIPSCAST; has presented over 200 sessions at local, national and international events; and has designed and instructed online courses on assistive technology.