The Bridge School
Communicative Competence

Selecting Goals

Communicative competence goals should target those skills which ultimately lead to a student's authentic participation in social and academic life, "to effectively and efficiently engage in a variety of interactions and participate in activities of their choice" (Beukelman & Mirenda, 2013). The Bridge School staff find Patricia Dowden's (1999) framework helpful in planning and goal setting for three differentiated communicator profiles:

Emergent Communicators

Goals for emergent communicators focus on identifying, developing and/or shaping reliable, intelligible communication signals and training communication partners to use supportive strategies to help facilitate interactions. Goals also target increasing opportunities for authentic interactions across the student's day and providing language-rich experiences that encourage learning, participation and communication.

Context-Dependent Communicators

Goals for context-dependent communicators target increasing access to vocabulary, and developing language and literacy skills. These learners are becoming less dependent on their partners to support their interactions and are learning to use a range of AAC tools and communication modes strategically across contexts, partners, activities and topics.

Independent Communicators

Goals for independent communicators often focus on increasing the speed of communication by teaching students new strategies or introducing new AAC/AT tools and mainstream technologies. These learners are literate, so they are able to communicate about anything, anytime. They may benefit from refining social skills, increasing participation in everyday activities, teaching advocacy skills and broadening social networks.

All communicators should have active, age-appropriate involvement in their own goal setting to whatever extent they are able and wish to participate.

Goals for all learners with complex communication needs should take into account:


Blackstone, S. & Hunt Berg, M. (2012). Social Networks: A Communication Inventory for Individuals with Complex Communication Needs and their Communication Partners. Wisconsin: Attainment Company, Inc.

Beukelman, D. and Mirenda, P. (2013). Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Supporting children & adults with complex communication needs. Fourth Ed. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.

Dowden, P.A. (1999). Different Strokes for Different Folks. Augmentative Communication News, vol 12, pp7-8.