Sunday, October 6, 2019

AAC: Let's Talk About "I want"

I want is not a word. However, if you were making overlays for speech-generating devices when I was first introduced to AAC (a long time ago), you may have created similar boards. Commonly used word combinations, such as I want, were put on one button and communication on a speech-generating device was often about requesting. 

Modeling on a core board (a manual board) or on a speech-generating device shows 
our students how to use language for a variety of communicative functions such 
as commenting, asking questions, protesting, requesting, and directing actions. Read 
more about communicative functions at Pat Mervine's blog post, Colorful Language
I have learned much in the last 15 years. Core vocabulary and aided language input are terms I use in my everyday speech. We use core boards in our special education classrooms worldwide and dynamic display communication software for many students needing devices.  We model a variety of communicative functions and strive to see our students use novel utterances. 

Unfortunately, even with robust vocabulary sets provided in the dynamic display software, there are still those routinely using the devices for only requesting and I want is a frequently used phrase. 

It is suggested that children taught to use basic requests (such as I + want + object) are at risk of limiting their ability to combine words to generate a variety of novel utterances (1).

While requesting is one of many communicative functions of language, all requests don't need to begin with I (2). Get more, want go, eat now, and, my favorite, not want tell us so much more.

Think about how often you say I want.  When someone asks, What do you want for lunch? you might say pizza or how about pizza. How would you respond when asked, Do you want the red ball or the blue ball? Maybe with the red one or red. A young child might respond with that while pointing. We do not always use complete sentences when talking. 

Below are links to other sites with thoughts on using I want and some good suggestions about placing the focus on increasing the variety of communicative functions. 

Moving Beyond “I Want…” in AAC; What do You Want? from SLP, Susan Berkowitz 

Moving Past “I Want” - A podcast found at The Speech Space

Beyond Requesting: A Week of Routines to Increase AAC Use at Mealtime from PrAACtical AAC  

Core Word of the Week: Want found on the Facebook page for The Center for AAC and Autism.  

Rachel Madel, SLP, suggests moving away from I want in her blog post, GET FROM SINGLE WORDS TO SENTENCES USING CORE WORDS (PART I). This would be a nice post to share with parents. 


© 2019


1. Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (2018).“Best Evidence Statement (BESt). Aided Language Stimulation Leading to Functional Communication Gains in Children Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication.” Accessed 5 Oct. 2019.

2. The Center for AAC & Autism (2019). "Core Word of the Week: Want." Accessed 1 Oct. 2019.

3. The Picture Communication Symbols ©1981–2019 by Tobii Dynavox. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.  Boardmaker® is a trademark of Tobii Dynavox.

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