Erek Engar: A Specific Language System First Approach to AAC

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It's time for what might be our most controversial show yet! If you have an opinion - for or against - please comment below or email at us at and we'll be happy to address your concerns next episode!


School districts are faced with having to consider the AAC needs for many children. The focus has been on selecting the perfect system. Teaching communication partners how to implement all day long has been the challenge. What if we could decrease the amount of time the selection process takes and spent that saved time on teaching implementation?

So how do we do it? Or should we?

Interview Show Notes:

  • Erek introduces himself
  • The concept of Specific Language System First approach to AAC
  • Erek describes what happens when a student comes into the school district - starting with Proloquo2go 6x10 grid.
  • Why use this approach?
  • Multiple teachers using multiple devices meant they have trouble developing a community of practice...but not anymore.
  • Chris describes feature matching.
  • Previous model of selection was born in an era when devices were more scarce.
  • Language systems were different years the systems are more robust.
  • Good systems + low cost
  • Teachers still struggling with implementation so spend more time on teaching them how to implement (rather than selecting the “perfect” device”)
  • “A system that isn’t perfect for a student but is implemented well is better than choosing the perfect system that is implemented poorly.”
  • Coaches spend less time on assessment and more on implementation.
  • The number one reason a teacher says it doesn’t work is, “The student doesn’t like it”
  • Explicit instruction- I do, you do, we do.
  • First two questions people used to ask.. “There are too many buttons” and “I need different buttons.”
  • After implementation training on Aided Language - now people don’t ask those anymore.
  • Over summer, started developing a repeatable, easy to implement, language-based word of week program
  • Modeling Mondays! Pull up PowerPoint slides on how to use the word.
  • Tuesday is Literacy Day! Use and read the core word a day using stories and books. Writing as well.
  • Wednesday is Math Day!
  • Thursday - Review previous introduced words.
  • Folder Friday - Explore folders (Fringe)
  • Generalization is what is being tackled next.
  • The best feature you can match is implementation.
  • Homework on word of the week lessons and involving parents.
  • Your system is in place and then you adapt.
  • Be patient! Progress will come if you stick with it.
  • 200 high tech aac users and doing well - used to be 10 who weren’t using it well.
  • If we had to switch systems, we could.
  • It is hard to pick a bad system
  • The focus should shift from selection to implementation.

Potential Solutions:

Have discussions about implementing this approach.

Beyond word of the week programs, use a language-based curriculum (materials where language is the object of the lesson, not infused into some other point of the lesson. Ie, Use apples on a tree to teach prepositions NOT do a lesson on apples where we try to also sneak in spatial concept words)