The participants reported using a wide variety of augmentative communication techniques for face-to-face communication (see Table 3), including dedicated communication device (n = 5), natural speech and speech approximations (n = 3), and facial expressions (n = 3). Once participant also used an interpreter (i.e., a familiar partner repeated the message produced by the AAC user to assist unfamiliar partners).
Most students were pleased with their ability to communicate in face-to-face situations (see Table 3). Five of the seven students described their communication as "easily understood," while one rated himself somewhat higher ("very easily understood") and one somewhat lower ("somewhat easily understood").
It is of interest to note that in response to an open-ended question about the "challenges" of communicating in a college environment, four of the seven students made explicit reference to issues of intelligibility, while one made a reference to their reduced rate of communication. Sometimes these challenges led to a breakdown in communication.
My main challenge when trying to communicate is that when people don't understand me they won't ask me to repeat things because they are afraid of hurting my feelings. I can always tell because they either say "oh" or ignore me altogether (Fiona).
I have a hard time keeping the person's attention until I finish what I have to say. They usually don't hang around to (sic) long for me to complete my conversation (Isaac).
In response to a question about strategies used to compensate or make communication easier, participants discussed the use of a variety of strategies, including three related to clarification and communication rate acceleration: using pre-programmed vocabulary in their computer-based device (n = 4), repeating their message (n = 2), and using alternate modes (e.g., directing communication partners to look at the screen on their computer-based device if the computer-generated speech is not understood (n = 2). Participants also reported the use of two additional strategies for dealing with issues more complicated than basic intelligibility. In order to manage turns within a conversation, Isaac reported using a "Place-holding" strategy:
Sometimes I will tell them "I have an idea about that, give me a minute to put it together" or "Hang in there a minute, I need to spell a few words.
As a way to introduce partners to his use of his AAC system, Larry made use of a "social conversation" strategy to introduce partners to his system and reduce partners' anxieties about speaking with an individual who uses AAC:
In order to make them feel comfortable when they see me with a communicator, I usually try to start a conversation with them. I may also say "Good Morning/Good Afternoon" or say "How's it going". Or, I may after greeting them tell them a joke that I heard (this generally loosens everyone up).
Participants offered a number of ideas as to how communication partners might interact more effectively with AAC users. Fiona's contribution provides an effective summary for the responses of the group: