AAC goals are used in speech therapy and written by a speech-language pathologist (SLP). In summary, the purpose for writing goals targeting AAC skills is similar to the overarching goals for all other speech and language areas: to increase functional communication across a variety of individuals, contexts, and settings. As parents or caregivers, understanding the goals your loved one has around AAC can help you support the development of their skills as well!
AAC Goals: Intro
For many, AAC systems (links for reference - no tech, low tech, mid tech, and high tech) are the primary expressive communication modality for the individual you are working with or caring for. Individuals who use AAC systems (e.g., speech generating devices/SGDs, communication boards, manual signs, etc.) may also use other forms of communication, such as verbal language/vocal approximations. Working on skills relating to communicating via AAC is incredibly important for any individual who uses an AAC system; as you are helping increase their language use and development. Cue: importance of goals (and that also means how you write them)!
You may be thinking, okay… so AAC goals should be all about making requests/comments/social exchanges - that’s functional communication right?! That is correct, but AAC goals can also expand to other functional domains as well… like, operational (e.g., individual will take the AAC system from place to place) and strategic skills (e.g., individual will let their communication partner know, “I use my tablet for talking”). You will need to conduct a clinical observation and/or perform assessments to determine your client’s communicative level and understanding using their AAC system, in order to write the most appropriate, evidence-based goals.
Free AAC Assessment Tools*
Clinical observations and interviews with teachers, other therapists, and caregivers will give you an indication of how your client uses their AAC system across natural (e.g., at home) and within more structured (e.g., at school) contexts. If your client is new to AAC and you are considering trialing a system, companies such as PRC-Saltillo offer free speech generating device (SGD) trials with their equipment.
The Tobii Dynavox, Dynamic AAC Goals Grid - 2 (DAGG-2) is an excellent resource that highlights a variety of linguistic components, which can be used when determining different AAC skill areas (think: operational and strategic) to develop goals for.
The Communication Matrix is another tool that is used to record and document an individual’s communication skills over time. Information is gathered from observations and experiences/interactions with the individual using AAC.
*It should be noted that there are numerous evaluation tools and resources that can be used to record an individual’s AAC skill level (we just mentioned a few of our go-tos, above!). Others include the Functional Communication Profile: Revised, and the low cost (~$12.99), AAC Evaluation Genie iPad application.
Writing AAC Goals
If you haven’t already, check out our recent article that outlines How to Write Speech Therapy Goals. Also included in our goal series: How to Write Pragmatic Language Goals and How to Write Receptive Language Goals. For the purpose of this article, we will focus specifically on writing goals for increasing AAC skills during therapy.
As seen above, speech goals should be written with 3* components in mind: the DO statement, the CONDITION statement, and the CRITERION statement.
*Also commonly included is consistency (we incorporate this!). Aka does the individual have to meet a specific criterion more than once? A common example of this may include across 3 consecutive sessions. This is usually something understood by the therapy organization/service provider and is sometimes/sometimes not included in the written goal itself. This is to ensure that the skill has been generalized and provides more reliable data that the skill has been properly mastered.
What the client is actually going to DO and the specific skill they will be working towards.
Example: will use the carrier phrase, “I don’t want [item/activity]”
The specific setting and/or context your client will work on this skill.
Example: when expressing refusal for various presented items/activities
How the client’s performance will be measured.
Example: in 4 out of 5 opportunities
DO + CONDITION + CRITERION
Example: [Client] will use the carrier phrase “I don’t want [item/activity],” when expressing refusal for various presented items activities, in 4 out of 5 opportunities.
There you have it! An example using our Goal Writing Formula containing the DO + CONDITION + CRITERION (don’t forget to think about consistency!) for a AAC skill areas.
AAC Goal Bank
For the purpose of this post, we have organized our AAC goal examples to fall under some common (expressively-based) linguistic domains that we see targeted in therapy. The most frequently used level of technology is also indicated at the conclusion of the goal.
Example #1: [Client] will use carrier phrases (e.g., “I want [item/activity]” or “Can I have [item/activity]?”), when making requests for preferred items/activities during a structured task, in 4 out of 5 opportunities. High tech
Example #2: [Client] will protest by pointing to the “I don’t want” symbol on their communication board, when presented with unpreferred items/activities, with 90% accuracy. Low tech
Example #1: [Client] will link subject, verb, and nominal to create a simple sentence relating to a familiar topic, within a structured activity, with 90% accuracy. High tech
Example #2: [Client] will use directives to generate a multi-word utterance (e.g., “go + [subject]”), within a structured game/activity, in 9 out of 10 trials. Mid/high tech
Example #1: [Client] will initiate a greeting to familiar communication partners, within unstructured contexts, with 90% accuracy. High tech
Example #2: [Client] will respond to questions using the manual signs for “yes/no,” within structured/unstructured activities, in 4 out of 5 opportunities. No tech
Example #1: [Client] will use the phrase “I need help,” to request assistance within structured/unstructured contexts, within 90% of opportunities. High tech
Example #2: [Client] will select the appropriate button to communicate “more” or “finished,” during/following engagement with an item/activity, in 4 out of 5 trials. Mid tech
Example #1: [Client] will navigate to 2 levels within their AAC system, when presented with a target word during a structured activity, with 90% accuracy. High tech
Example #2: [Client] will navigate to the appropriate category/group (e.g., things or vehicles) within their AAC system, when participating in a categorization task, in 9 out of 10 trials. High tech
Example #1: [Client] will properly adjust volume controls on their AAC system, within a variety of settings (e.g., school or grocery store), within 90% of opportunities. High tech
Example #2: [Client] will charge their AAC system, when presented with a battery life of <5% across settings, within 90% of opportunities. High tech
Example #1: [Client] will use a repair strategy (e.g., repeat or rephrase message) in the event of a communication breakdown, when engaged in a conversational exchange, within 90% of opportunities. High tech
Example #2: [Client] will use an introductory phrase (e.g., “I use my tablet for talking”) prior to communicating their message, when conversing with a communication partner, within 90% of opportunities. High tech
As you can see above, some of the goals are written very specifically and some are slightly broader - both are OKAY! However, it is always important to remember the main takeaway is that what you are targeting is MEASURABLE. So if you can accurately document in a report a measurable interpretation of the goal, you are adequately presenting the progress of the skill. If you are unable to do so… you might want to reframe the way you wrote the goal.
Have questions? Send us an Instagram DM! @communicationcommunity or email email@example.com