Building Literacy: Teaching Grammar to AAC Users

Autonomous communication and boundless expression are the foremost goals of AAC. While we focus on developing communication skills,it is equally important that we lay the foundation for their literacy. Since grammar is fundamental to any language, AAC users can benefit from focussed instruction that helps them gain an understanding of key grammatical structures.

Why so Proper?

Why should we focus on proper language usage for AAC users? Because it is important that we set a high bar for AAC users and for what we expect them to achieve. When we respect their competence, it drives us to work towards giving the necessary support systems that enable them to meet our expectations and even go on to exceed them 🙂 Besides, language abilities have been found to play a instrumental role in literacy .

Looking at Errors as Stepping Stones 

Yes, we would like AAC users to learn the right way to form sentences and use words. But the emphasis should always be on communication, especially for emergent communicators. Our quest for grammatical accuracy cannot be at the cost of an AAC user’s communication skills development. To this end, it may be best if we acknowledge and respond to all their communication attempts during the early stages of their AAC journey without worrying about grammar. Every utterance regardless of any errors should be encouraged. These errors can be recast when they are ready for it and can be a springboard for grammar learning. Once the communicator puts together words, we can gradually encourage them towards grammatically correct phrases and sentences.

Correcting Without Affecting Communication 

Recasting is one of the effective strategies used for grammar instruction. It is defined as offering corrective feedback to a communicator’s utterances. This feedback is not overt and is designed to keep the conversation going. Model the correct usage verbally as you tap the grammatically right words on the AAC system. Here are a few ways in which you can correct a communicator:

Add Missing Words

  • Articles: the, a, an
  • Demonstratives: this, that, those, these
  • Auxiliary Verbs: will, is, must, does
  • Quantifiers: some, many, few
  • Prepositions: under, over, to, by
  • Pronouns: he, she, his, her,
  • Conjunctions: for, and, but, or



Rearrange the Order of Words


Others have difficulties putting their words into the right order in sentences, e.g.:



  • subject-negative-verb sentences like “The girl is not running.”
  • subject-verb-object-object sentences like “The boy gave the bone to the dog.”
  • Questions



Correct the Word Morphemes



  • Correct a Noun: -s (or -es), -‘s (or s’) plural, possessive)




  • Correct an Adjective: -er, -est comparative, superlative)




  • Correct a Verb: -ed, -ing, -en (past, past participle, present continuous, future tense)
  • Correct a Pronoun: mine, my, your



Shared Reading


Reading text can help AAC users


Grammar Supports in Avaz





Expansion of Language: Supporting AAC Learner’s Progress

Expansion of Language: Supporting AAC Learner’s Progress


We often see that one of the major stumbling blocks for an emergent communicator’s progress is their struggle to get past single word utterances. The simplest way to help them overcome this is by building on what they already know. 


One Step at a Time Please

This strategy works best if the goal set is to attain just the next step in their language development ie single word communicators must be encouraged to utter two-word or three-word phrases. Setting an overambitious goal can end up discouraging them and can prove to be counter productive.


There’s A Method to This Expansion

Parents and professionals need to consistently model one or two words above the communicator’s current level to help them build these skills. This, however, is easier said than done. Without an understanding of how best to expand language, we may just end up confusing the communicator. 


Be Specific in Your Praise 

When the communicator successfully puts together words, praise them and let them know what you’re appreciating them for. 


Instead of saying, ” Good job”, say, “Good job. You said want cookie”


“Well done. You said more cookie please”


This will ensure that the child knows clearly what they are receiving the praise for. This reinforcement will go a long way in motivating them to put more words together.