Understanding Communicative Competence for AAC Users

For AAC users to communicate autonomously, they need to achieve proficiency in skills that enable them to freely express themselves. However, this requires an understanding of communicative competence so that parents and professionals can set AAC goals accordingly. Read on to learn more about the individual skill areas that are key components of communicative competence.

What is Communicative Competence?

Communicative competence refers to an individual’s ability to effectively convey their opinions, thoughts, , and feelings. It involves the  knowledge of language and an awareness  about how to use the language appropriately in various settings and contexts. 

In 1989,  Janice Light proposed a definition for communicative competence for AAC users in which she identified four skill areas that are important to focus on to achieve communicative competence.

In 2003, Light added that psychosocial factors such as confidence,  motivation, attitude, and resilience along with environmental barriers and supports can play a major role in the development of communicative competence . 

So, the five core domains that are part of communicative competence are:

  1. Operational Competence
  2. Strategic Competence
  3. Social Competence
  4. Linguistic Competence
  5. Psychosocial Competence

Let’s look at each of these skill  areas in more detail –

Communicative Competence for  AAC users
Linguistic Competence

Linguistic Competence refers to knowledge of spoken and written language along with the mastery of linguistic codes of AAC systems. It includes

  • Expressive and receptive language skills in the AAC user’s native language
  • Knowledge of pictures, symbols, syntax, and grammar of the different AAC systems
  • Multilingual learners acquiring language skills necessary for communicating with the larger community in addition to knowledge of their primary language.
  • Knowledge of core and fringe vocabulary along with commonly used phrases
Operational Competence

This involves skills required for operation of AAC systems and includes

  • Learning to use gestures and sign language
  • Learning to operate with different access methods
  • Navigating pages in a communication book
  • Navigating folders in a high tech AAC System
  • Turning high tech AAC systems on and off and charging it
  • Maintaining electronic devices
Strategic Competence

Strategic competence refers to adaptive strategies AAC users need to overcome limitations of the AAC system and deficits in other skill areas. It includes

  • Learning to use multiple modes of communication appropriately
  • Directing the communication partner to assist with constructing a message
  •  Developing the ability to convey messages using available vocabulary and feature
  • Requesting additional vocabulary 
  • Using prediction for more efficient communication
  • Using Pre-stored phrases for quick communication
  • Requesting help to repair and avoid communication breakdowns
Social Competence

Social competence refers to the knowledge of how to use AAC systems and strategies in social interactions. It includes

  • Learning conversational  skills such as taking turns, staying on topic 
  • Using language for different communicative purposes.
  • Developing interpersonal skills that build social connections. 
  • Acquiring age-appropriate social skills  
  • Knowledge of pragmatics
  • Requesting attention or information
  • Projecting a positive self-image
Pyschosocial Competence

Psychosocial competence refers to the ability to deal with everyday situations with mental stability. It includes

  • Being motivated to interact and communicate thoughts
  • Faith in the positive effects of AAC
  • Confidence about communicative abilities
  • Being persistent in expressing ideas even in the event of communication breakdowns
  • Understanding of environmental barriers to communication
  • Making the best use of environmental 

Hope you enjoyed reading about communicative competence for AAC Users. Please write your feedback and suggestions in the comment section below.

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