Home > Continuum
of Communication Independence
Continuum of Communication
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)
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
"the ability to communicate anything on any topic
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,
- he cannot spell well enough to compose novel utterances, or...
- she is given no opportunity to communicate what she wants to
- his communication system doesn't match his motor skills making
it difficult to control, or...
- her communication system doesn't match her communication needs,
- there are partners who influence communication through cueing,
- he has hidden vision impairments making it hard to see the
- 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,
- 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