AAC Communication  |  Determining the Need


Points to Consider: Student, Environment, Task & Tool


  • How does the student currently communicate to get needs and wants met?
  • How often is the student is able to meet communication needs? (e.g. All of the time, Most of the time, Some of the time)
  • In which of the following situations is the student consistently understood by partners?
    • Familiar Partner/Known Context, Unfamiliar Partner/Known Context, Familiar Partner/Unknown Context, Unfamiliar Partner/Unknown Context
  • What hobbies/interests does the student have?
  • What motivates the student? What frustrates the student?
  • What are the student's current language/reading/writing skills?
  • Describe any fine or gross motor skills that might impact the student's ability to access or transport an AAC system.
  • Describe any hearing or vision concerns that might impact the student's ability to access an AAC system.


  • Are there communication supports available in the environment (program, classroom, building, district) that can first be trialed with the student? Describe available supports & opportunities available to use these supports
  • What communication opportunities are readily available or built-in throughout the student's day?
  • Where, When, and with Who is the student able and/or expected to communicate during the day?
    • Do these environments support the AAC language learning and development of functional communication skills?
    • Are the communication partners across environments motivated to use a particular AAC system?


  • What do school and family team members want the student to communicate that he/she is not able to do today?
  • What are the student's peers communicating?
  • What activities are motivating for the student? Practical for the parents to implement, and easy to generalize across environments - at home, at school, in the community?
  • How might existing activities be modified to allow increased progress and participation?


  • What communication tool(s) or strategies has the student utilized or trialed (successfully or unsuccessfully) for functional communication in the past?
  • What are the features of a system that will help develop the individualized communication and language skills of the student? (e.g. vocabulary options, voice output, symbol type/size/array, static or dynamic display, portability, and alternate/adapted access methods).
    • Alternate Access Methods - AAC systems offer a variety of alternate access methods.
    • Click here to learn more about determining the most efficient way an individual can access an AAC system.
  • What types of training might be required for this student or team members when determining a tool?
  • Trial new tools from the AT Lending Library, based on the identification of priority tasks and activities.