Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Lynne M. Atanasoff, David McNaughton, Pamela S. Wolfe and Janice Light The Pennsylvania State University
Seven college students who use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) participated in a written survey to describe their communication experiences in college. Participants reported the use of face-to-face, written, and distance communication techniques to communicate with both peers and instructors. Although participants reported that they were generally successful in communicating on a variety of topics with a wide variety of methods, those individuals who used e-mail rated this the most effective way of being understood by others. Results of this survey are used to discuss strategies for successful participation by AAC users in university settings, as well as directions for future research.
Success in college course work requires the integrated use in a variety of communication skills (Baker & Lombardi, 1985; Norton & Hartley, 1986). Not only must students be able to communicate basic ideas and arguments, they must be ready to participate in communication activities that pose significantly distinct demands from the challenges of high school (Carson, Chase & Gibons, 1992). Within the college setting, for example, the ability to contribute personal interpretations of course materials to class discussions, to take accurate notes without instructor "cue," and to create written work that adheres to the conventions of a particular academic discipline take on a special importance (Carson et al., 1992; McCarthy, 1987).
In addition to the use of communications skills to acquire and demonstrate knowledge, certain college level courses may focus exclusively on the development and use of communication skills. Many 4-year postsecondary programs include a public speaking course in which the actual ability to communicate effectively, above and beyond the content of the presentation, is assessed (Johnson & Szczupakiewicz, 1987; Lyons, 1989). Further, postsecondary education also often provides important opportunities for social interaction. For many individuals, college is a time for interacting with peers and the creation of life-long friendships (Liebert, Lutsky, & Gottlieb, 1990).
For most students in postsecondary settings, the use of speech, and of commonly available writing tools such as pencil and paper or work processing technology, provide appropriate means for meeting the academic and social demands of college. For a small number of students with severe physical disabilities, however, the communication demands of college may pose uncommon challenges (Schutz-Muehling & Beukelman