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Home > Continuum of Communication Independence

Continuum of Communication Independence

What is Communication Independence?

This was best articulated by Bob Williams, former U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary, and himself an AAC user.

"Every person, regardless of the severity of his/her disabilities, has the right…to communicate with others, express everyday preferences and exercise at least some control over his or her daily life. Each individual, therefore, should be given the chance, training, technology, respect and encouragement to do so." Vermont Communication Resource Guide (2002)

Sources: http://www.state.vt.us/dmh/ddscommunicationresourceguide.pdf and http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/020508/82364_2.html

This is a beautiful statement of independence, but we have to translate it into something that we can take action on...something we can understand on a day-to-day level. In my work, I define "independence" in communication as:

"the ability to communicate anything on any topic to anyone"

It doesn't matter whether or not the individual relies on a communication aid or device, as long as he or she can communicate anything to anyone he/she chooses. Since most of us able-bodied speakers take this for granted, it might be easiest to understand independence by seeing its absence in some cases...

Communication is not "independent" if..

  • utterances can only be understood by some people, or...
  • other people have to preprogram all vocabulary in a device, or...
  • he cannot spell well enough to compose novel utterances, or...
  • she is given no opportunity to communicate what she wants to say, or...
  • his communication system doesn't match his motor skills making it difficult to control, or...
  • her communication system doesn't match her communication needs, or...
  • there are partners who influence communication through cueing, or...
  • he has hidden vision impairments making it hard to see the symbols, or...
  • she has a hidden hearing impairment making it difficult to hear what is said, or...
  • he has been given insufficient training and time to learn to use his AAC system, or...
  • she has no access to a communication system at times, or...
  • he cannot see the display on his system in some light conditions, or...
  • no one believes she has anything worth listening to....etc.

These are all ways that someone is held back from independence. You should notice that these are all limitations that can be addressed and changed as long as we get to know the AAC user.. That will be the foundation of this model, of how we can help make someone truly communicatively independent. Let's begin, then, with the individual who is just learning to communicate, the individual with "Emerging Communication".

Navigation Note: Just like the last lesson, this one is arranged in sequence. At the bottom of each section, you'll be given a link to the next section, as you see below.

Continue on to Emerging Communication