Joanne M. Cafiero Ph.D. -- Communication Strategies for Children With Autism


Communication Strategies for Children with Autism


Unlocking Language Through Technology


This web site is dedicated to providing ideas, research, information and support on supporting individuals with autism and complex communication needs. The goal of this site is to provide a usable balance of research-based information and practical "in-the-trenches" tools and strategies for unlocking the potential of individuals on the Autism Spectrum.


Autism and Augmentative and Alternative Communication Core Principles


  1. Assume communication potential! It will make a qualitative difference in how you teach, approach and talk to individuals on the Autism Spectrum.
  2. There is growing evidence that ASD has a strong motor component, impacting the ease with which an individual can show what they know.
  3. Instruction and activities must be MEANINGFUL. Rote, meaningless drills are boring, and while a student may demonstrate the ability to learn disconnected, unrelated skills, they have no real life enhancing value.
  4. The most effective activities and curricular materials are concrete, connected to the real world and have value to the person on the Autism Spectrum.
  5. Remember that you may collect and analyze scientifically valid data showing progress on skills that may be irrelevant or dead-end skills.
  6. Communication is not a tool, a service, an activity, or a "thing-to-do", it is a way of being. It's what humans do. Opportunities to communicate should be continuous. Tools to augment communication (AAC) should be ubiquitous.
  7. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) not only helps "unlock" language but provides the supports to help limited speakers develop more complex language.
  8. There should be no gatekeeper skills for providing AAC. If an individual has difficulty with communication intermittently or on a chronic day-to-day basis, the need for AAC support equals eligibility for supports.
  9. Individuals with autism who can speak may not have access to their full internal vocabulary at all times, especially if stressed and upset. Therefore AAC should be available to support these difficult times.
  10. The communication partner is the single most important factor in a successful AAC intervention. The communication partner must be committed, competent and creative - that is, be able to create multiple communication opportunities, use the AAC device him/herself and always assume, presume ability and competence.
  11. Adults on the Autism Spectrum are speaking out. They inform our practice and they advocate robust AAC supports.


Featured Documents by Dr. Joanne M. Cafiero (10/29/2013)

AAC Meets ABA: Natural Aided Language Interventions for Individuals with Autism and Complex Communication Needs


Featured Monographs by Dr. Joanne M. Cafiero

Technology Supports for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, from Technology in Action, Vol. 3, Issue 3, May 2008

AAC and Autism: Challenging Our Beliefs, from Closing the Gap, Vol. 26, No.1, April/May 2007

AAC and Group Instruction, from Closing the Gap, Vol. 23, No.4, October/November 2004

Featured Presentations by Dr. Joanne M. Cafiero

AAC Meets ABA: Natural Aided Language", presented at ISAAC 2010, Barcelona, Spain

Autism and AAC: Research to Practice, April 2010

Aided Language Stimulation and Autism, presented at ATIA, January 2010 (with Linda Burkhart, Caroline Musselwhite and Sam Sennott)

Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Systematic Reviews

Something's Wrong. © Mayer-Johnson, 2000

Workshops & Presentations


  1. March 3, 2015
    Fostering Friendships for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders
    Webinar sponsored by Infinitec/Seguin


  1. October 8, 2014
    Literacy, Inclusion and ASD Webinar
    Sponsored by Infinitec/Seguin, Chicago
  2. October 28, 2014
    Autism and Inclusion: Making it Work
    Infinitec, Chicago
  3. November 20, 2014
    "But he doesn't even use his device!" Communication Partnerships for Students with ASD
    Webinar, Infinitec/Seguin, Chicago


  1. March 11-12, 2013
    AAC and ASD: Making the Connections
    Portland, OR
  2. October 13, 2013
    Partners for Success: Parent Workshop
  3. November 13, 2013
    Tackling the "Thorny" Issues for Students with ASD Included in the General Education Environment
    Webinar Sponsored by Infinitec, Chicago


  1. March 8, 2012
    Activity Schedules in the Home
    Frederick County Public Schools
  2. April 21, 2012
    Implementing Technology-Based Communication Programs for Children with Autism
    Accessibility Summit, McLean, VA
  3. November 10, 2012
    AAC Tools for the Home: A Make-It, Take-It


  1. April 11, 2011
    Autism, AAC and Communication
    Dallas/Fort Worth
  2. June 2, 2011
    Autism, AAC and Communication
    Infinitec, Chicago
  3. June 9, 2011
    AAC and Autism
    Hong Kong Society of Speech Pathologists
  4. July 16, 2011
    AAC, Autism and Literacy
    Fayetteville, North Carolina
  5. October 20, 2011
    AAC and Autism
    Johns Hopkins University CARD (Center for Autism and Related Disorders