Partner Assisted Scanning

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Partner Assisted Scanning (PAS) is an effective way to increase communication for students with complex needs. PAS relies on the skills of the communication partner (teacher, family member, peer) to talk through (and use visuals when needed) choices and wait for the AAC user to indicate their choice. 

There are three major types of auditory scanning: categorically organized, core-based, and letter-based.

Categorically (or pragmatically) organized scanning:

Groups words, phrases, and ideas into a category. Categories might include places to go, body parts, and preferred items.

Sample categorically organized scanning:

Core-based scanning:

Uses English core words as the basis for scanning.

Letter-based scanning (sometimes known as partner-assisted alternative pencils):

Uses the letters of the alphabet to spell words that the AAC user wants to communicate. There are different ways to organize letters for efficiency.

Key points for communication partners to remember

  1. PREVIEW all the choices that the student will have before expecting them to answer.
  2. WAIT at least 5 seconds before offering the next choice (this number may vary depending on the student).
  3. INTERPRET the student’s actions as communication. For some students that means taking any change in their current state as affirmation (smile, head nod, finger movement).
  4. LABEL exactly what the student did you viewed as a communicative attempt. Although the student may have made that movement accidentally, when you label it, it might help them to do it again next time more purposefully.
  5. SOMETHING ELSE may be what your student wants to tell you. Always give an option for “something else/different/it’s not here”.

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