Centering the family in their system: a framework to promote family-centered AAC services

Kelly L. Coburn, Sojung Jung, Ciara L. Ousley, Dawn J. Sowers, Meghan Wendelken, Krista M. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Families are the most significant communication partners for an individual with complex communication needs. Even though family-centered approaches are recommended to support augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) services for an individual, it is difficult to establish a successful plan that fits each individual’s family. A framework for practitioners is proposed to effectively obtain and understand information about a family’s unique dynamics as part of service delivery to positively impact AAC device uptake and long-term use. The goal of using this model is to minimize the disruption to the family while maximizing the integration of the AAC system. This paper proposes and illustrates a framework to enrich AAC services through the integration of several theoretical models of family systems theory, family paradigms, and a procedure called the self-created genogram. This paper begins by reviewing ecological family systems theory and family systems to guide and provide a framework to support effective AAC implementation. The process of self-creating genograms is then introduced as a means to obtain a rich perspective on family characteristics and dynamics that is informed by the individual who uses AAC. All of this information allows professionals to provide relevant information and tailor options for the family. As a result, the family is able to make informed decisions about AAC intervention in a manner most consistent with how they typically operate. Finally, we apply this framework to a hypothetical case of a child with autism and complex communication needs across three timepoints (preschool, late elementary/early middle school, and high school/post-secondary transition) to demonstrate how this framework can be used in clinical practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-240
Number of pages12
JournalAAC: Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Rehabilitation
  • Speech and Hearing


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