There is some preliminary evidence for AAC systems for both generating and receiving communication that have demonstrated increases in language and social participation for children with autism. Aided language stimulation is receptive language training in natural environments in which the communication partner highlights or touches pictures while speaking the corresponding words (Elder and Goossens, 1994; Goossens et al., 1995). Aided language stimulation is an interactive, generative use of visual symbols, using a developmental, rather than a behavioral approach. The natural aided language approach, an analog of aided language stimulation, uses visual language as a second language in the child’s environment (Cafiero, 1995; 2000). In natural aided language, every environment has a corresponding language board with the vocabulary needed to provide receptive language stimulation and opportunities for communicative interaction and expressive language. Although there are no published investigations of these AAC approaches used by children with autism to date, there have been two unpublished doctoral dissertations that have demonstrated significant increases in verbal and picture communicative initiations and responses and increases in utterance length (Cafiero, 1995; Dexter, 1998).
The System for Augmenting Language (SAL) (Romski and Sevcik, 1996) is another AAC system that provides augmented input and output with a VOCA. The VOCA has a communication board overlay of visualgraphic symbols; communication partners augment their verbal input with the VOCA as they interact with their nonverbal communication partner. Romski and Sevcik (1996) conducted a 2-year longitudinal study of SAL with 13 students with moderate or severe intellectual disabilities, including a 7-year-old participant with autism. They reported that all of the students used referential and social-regulatory symbols and that seven of the children, including the child with autism, produced messages with multiple symbols, recognized some printed words paired with their corresponding symbols, and increased the proportion of intelligible spoken words.
Facilitated Communication (FC) is a method for providing support to individuals with severe communication problems as they convey typed messages. Supports consist of emotional (encouragement); physical (stable physical context, supporting the forearm or wrist, pulling back the communicator’s hand, helping isolate the index finger); and communicative (ignoring stereotypic behaviors and utterances, using structured questions) components to stimulate communication (Biklen, 1993). FC differs in critical ways from typical AAC interventions. In traditional AAC, practitioners may guide or systematically prompt a communicator. Only