Teaching Paraeducators to Support the Communication of Individuals Who Use Augmentative and Alternative Communication: A Literature Review

Sarah Nathel Douglas


Individuals with complex communication needs (CCN) who rely on augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to communicate in school and community activities often have paraeducators[1] as communication partners.  For individuals who use AAC, successful communication often depends upon their personal skills as well as the skills of their communication partners.  Because the skills of communication partners are critical, and can be taught, a review was conducted to identify the effect of teaching paraeducators to provide appropriate communication supports for individuals using AAC using studies that included data for both paraeducators and individuals with CCN.  Studies were analyzed using the recommendations from the Communication Partner Instruction Model (Kent-Walsh & McNaughton, 2005).  Findings from seven studies suggest that communication partner training to paraeducators can have positive outcomes for the communication behaviors of both paraeducators and individuals using AAC. Implications for practice and future research directions are addressed.

[1] For the purpose of this article the term paraeducator refers to personnel who support individuals with disabilities in educational, vocational, and human service organizations. Paraeducators carry out plans designed by teachers or human service professionals. In the literature paraeducators are also referred to as paraprofessionals, educational assistants, instructional assistants or aides, program staff, carers, etc.


augmentative and alternative communication, training, paraeducator, communication partner, communication

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