Skip to main content
Posted on October 30, 2017

Simple AAC – 9. Comment

When a child first starts to speak, you often hear adults asking questions like “what’s that?” and “what’s this?”.

Why do they ask these questions when they know the answer!

They might want to find out if their child knows the answer, or even prove to someone else that their child knows the answer.

But the reason is not to teach their child language.

Asking is not teaching

So, if we ask AAC learners these questions, we are not teaching language.

It is often far too tempting when a learner starts to use AAC, to ask questions like “where is…” and “can you find the…”.

But this is just testing, not teaching.

And what happens if the learner doesn’t know the answer? Have we taught them how to say “I don’t know”?

Will their confidence be affected if they don’t know? How will they find out the answer?

So use comments instead!

Instead of asking questions, we can do a much better job of teaching language if we start with the answers!

Instead of saying “what is it?” you could use their AAC to say “It’s a CAR”.

Instead of saying “can you find the word GOOD?” just show them where it is.

Asking questions as an opportunity to model the answers

Sometimes we need to ask questions, but these should be questions we don’t know the answer to, like “what would you like to do next?” or “what do you think?”.

These might sound like difficult questions though, which our AAC learner might not know how to answer, but we can show them how they could answer.

For example, when asking these questions, you might say “do you want a STORY or do you want some MUSIC” “do you think it’s FUNNY or do you think it’s BORING?”.

Or, you might just want to skip the question altogether and make a comment. “I think it’s FUNNY”. “I want some MUSIC”.

“They’re not on a quiz show!”

I am reminded of something Kate Ahern said once, which not only made me laugh, but also made me want to share this statement:“They’re not on a quiz show!”

See for yourself

There is a fun and quick experiment you can do on SLT Mary Pat’s Talk Nua website to understand how it feels to be asked questions you don’t know the answer to, particularly being asked to name things.

It just isn’t that helpful, and is only encouraging AAC learners to answer questions.

But we want to teach AAC learners rich and natural language, and conversation!

Not train them up for being on a quiz show…



See the full SIMPLE AAC series 

Request a quote

Quickly put together what you need and send it over to us.

Request a quote

Mailing list

Join the Smartbox mailing list for regular updates and news.

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at

We use MailChimp as our marketing email platform. When you join, you acknowledge that the information you provide will be transferred to MailChimp for processing in accordance with their Privacy Policy and Terms.