"You Just Want to Be Able to Communicate With Your Child": Parents' Perspectives on Communication and AAC Use for Beginning Communicators on the Autism Spectrum

Emily Laubscher, Lauramarie Pope, Janice Light

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: For young children on the autism spectrum who are beginning communicators, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) can support language development and participation in meaningful interactions. AAC is more likely to be effective when services align with the needs and priorities of the child's family. To better understand family perspectives, this study investigated the communication and AAC experiences of parents of young beginning communicators on the autism spectrum. METHOD: The study used a phenomenological qualitative design. Eight caregivers of seven children on the autism spectrum participated in semistructured interviews, and thematic analysis was used to identify themes within the data. RESULTS: Five main themes and 15 subthemes emerged from the data. Parents situated communication and AAC experiences within the context of complex, busy lives. They discussed the value of communication and benefits of AAC, but described numerous challenges related to obtaining, learning, and implementing AAC that evolved over time as needs and skills changed. Parents discussed their children's individuality and the need for AAC systems and services to fit the unique needs of their child and their family. They also emphasized ways in which communication outcomes were affected by factors external to the child and the family, including factors related to professional services and the U.S. health care and educational systems. CONCLUSIONS: The results affirm the need to consider the family and the broader social system when providing AAC services to young children on the autism spectrum. Provision of family-centered services is critical to successful AAC. SUPPLEMENTAL MATERIAL: https://doi.org/10.23641/asha.24881562.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-735
Number of pages20
JournalAmerican journal of speech-language pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 7 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

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