Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Myth Busting

Carole Zangari

It seems just plain wrong to wish for the death of something, but here goes. We’re ready for the quick demise of some damaging AAC myths. Mythology is defined, in part, as ‘an unproved or false collective belief.’ Myths can make for great for entertainment but using them to guide therapeutic practices? Not so much.

And so with the end of this year looming, we wish for an end to the myth that AAC impedes speech and language development.

Lyle Lloyd, a vocal advocate and guiding force in the early days of the AAC field, was probably the first to delineate some of these myths. He has been teaching and writing about these myths since the 1980’s. Other AAC leaders, such as Sarah Blackstone, have been calling for us to dispel these myths since the 1990’s. Pat Dowden’s fine AAC website refuted these myths in the early 2000’s, yet these misperceptions prevail. Perhaps not so widely, but there remains an undercurrent preventing many people with severe speech and language difficulties from getting access to AAC tools and intervention.


Let 2012 be the year that we shout it from the rooftops: AAC does not inhibit speech and language development.

We have the evidence, thanks to the tireless efforts of many researchers. Since a hallmark study in 2006, a number of meta-analyses have been conducted to look at the relationship between AAC and speech-language skills, and none have found evidence that AAC has a negative effect. The most recent one that we’re aware of, due out in 2012, looked specifically at aided AAC (SGDs, picture communication, PECS) in individuals with ASD. It found that AAC has a positive impact on speech and language skills, social interaction, and spelling abilities. Furthermore, it confirms earlier research that AAC is associated with reductions in challenging behavior.

What we know from our clinical and educational practice is being increasingly validated through empirical study. There are many arrows in our quivers. Let’s use them to bust these myths, once and for all.

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