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Now What? The Competent AAC User Who Doesn't Want to Talk: A case study

  • Nic Kimmance
  • Marian Nairac
  • Nicole Tumber

This paper aims to explore the challenges of working with AAC users who have the skills to use their systems but not the motivation; and to discuss the impact of shifting focus from linguistic and operational, to social and participatory.


A multi-disciplinary team worked with a mainstream primary-aged child using eye-gaze to access a Tobii C12 VOCA and head switches to access Clicker 5 software. A consultative model has been used, where regular support and advice has been given to parents, the local therapy team and school staff in how to implement the use of AAC in school and at home for communication and recording. The team have focused on using the device for child-led social activities such as accessing email, browsing the internet and playing games. The child explored features of the device independently using Windows Mouse Control, where he has been able to browse the internet and explore other programmes in an unstructured way. Use of the vocabulary package has been focused around constructing and sending emails, which is highly motivating and naturally encourages exploration of the vocabulary set in a way that the child does not associate with 'work'.


The child is becoming more engaged with the use of the VOCA where previously this had needed strong adult encouragement and rewards. Some spontaneous communication is now occuring within email. Staff and parents have reported that they feel more relaxed about using the system now that motivation has increased and there is less pressure on 'meeting targets'.


By removing the pressure to use the device for 'work' and prompted communication, VOCA use has become more natural, motivating and allowed greater participation.

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