Why did that AAC device fail? Listen to parents for insight.


In AAC evaluations, we do our best to select a system that meets the client’s and family’s needs, but far too many AAC systems are rejected or abandoned. Why does this happen—and can we prevent it? Since families are so important in implementation, one way to approach this challenge is to understand family members’ experiences of AAC that didn’t succeed for them.

The authors of this study interviewed 16 mothers who rejected/abandoned an AAC system for their child with complex communication needs when he or she was 6 or younger. The systems included sign-based systems and low and high tech devices. So it’s not that parents dismissed a certain type of AAC; rather, parents rejected or abandoned any AAC system that did not meet the needs of their child and family. It makes sense that some reported abandoning systems if the child did not use them to communicate, but the other main barriers were related to parent needs and values. We’ve laid them out for you below along with suggestions to beef up your support.

  • Barrier: Lack of emotional readiness or resilience to implement AAC

    • Support Strategy: Incorporate counseling with a focus on experiencing disability and readiness to use AAC

  • Barrier: Lack of satisfaction with the AAC system

    • Support Strategy: Get on the same page with families about their values regarding cost, functionality, and language level of AAC systems

  • Barrier: Extra work associated with implementing AAC

    • Support Strategy: Focus parent education on efficient support strategies and how to embed AAC in family routines

This qualitative research article is also jam-packed with parent quotes. To get you geared up for family-centered practice in AAC, there’s no better way to get started than to read straight from the source.

Moorcroft, A., Scarinci, N., & Meyer, C. (2019). “I’ve had a love-hate, I mean mostly hate relationship with these PODD books”: Parent perceptions of how they and their child contributed to AAC rejection and abandonment. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. doi:10.1080/17483107.2019.1632944.