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Primary Goal of Augmentative Communication
The ultimate goal of augmentative communication is to enable the user to effectively communicate with others and become a contributing member of society. In order to determine how to reach this goal, studies have been performed to understand what type of communication interactions take place between individuals. By understanding these interactions, professionals can determine how to incorporate the necessary vocabulary into an augmentative communication system in order to allow individuals to interact effectively. Through extensive AAC research, Light (1988) describes four types of communication interaction: (1) expression of needs and wants, (2) information transfer, (3) social closeness, and (4) social etiquette. The following paragraphs discuss each of these communication interactions in more detail.
Expression of Needs and Wants
Expressing needs and wants is an important communication interaction that all augmentative communication devices must allow the user to perform. For instance, the AAC user must be able to ask someone for directions, order food at a restaurant, or request a grocery item at the store. Most augmentative communication devices are designed to incorporate needs/wants vocabulary first and foremost because of the significance of enabling speech and/or writing impaired individuals to communicate their daily needs, as well as the things they would like.
The goal of information transfer is to share information with others. For example, telling your best friend what you did this past weekend or explaining to your boss how you solved a problem. The idea is not to obtain something, as in the expression of needs and wants, but rather to communicate in detail on a wide variety of topics. Transferring information to a communication partner may require a much longer interaction than expressing a need. However, an augmentative communication device must allow the user to share such information with others in order to sucessfully participate in an educational setting or enhance future vocational opportunities.
Social closeness differs from the first two communication interactions in that the content of the message is not as important as the actual interaction itself. The main goal of social closeness is to develop or maintain a relationship through communication. Some examples include two friends sharing an intimate conversation, a child telling his new friend a joke, or a mother telling her child that she loves them. The demand for an augmentative communication device to permit social closeness between the user and the communication partner is extremely important to most augmentative communication users. The feeling of connectedness the messages enable are many times considered more important than the content, speed, and accuracy of the message itself.
The goal of the last communication interaction is to comply with the social conventions of politeness. For instance, an individual saying "please", "thank you", and "you're welcome" are just a few of the many polite terms that must be incorporated into an augmentative communication device. The ability to perform social etiquette interactions is a necessity for many augmentative communication users because it is a reflection of their personality. For example, a communication partner may mistakenly partake the augmentative communication user as being rude; whereas, he or she may actually not have an AAC system that includes polite terms.