Book review: Joanne Cafiero’s “Meaningful Exchanges for People with Autism”

Read more about Meaningful Exchanges for People with Autism at Amazon.Meaningful Exchanges for People with Autism: An Introduction to Augmentative and Alternative Communication, by Joanne Cafiero, Ph.D., is an excellent resource for AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) intervention for people with autism. The content is provided in a user-friendly format which includes qualitative stories, quantitative data and pictorial representations. This book would be particularly helpful to those new to the field of AAC or new to the delivery of AAC service and support to individuals with autism.

Approximately 50% of individuals with autism do not develop effective spoken language according to research published in the 2001 book, Educating Children with Autism.

AAC provides a means to communicate for those who do not have spoken language. AAC is any tool, device, picture, word, symbol or gesture that compensates for expressive and receptive communication deficits. Individuals with autism who are not able to effectively utilize spoken language can use AAC to interact with others.

Cafiero’s style of writing is immediately accessible to both the skilled AAC professional and the novice reader. She opens her book with an explanation of why the AAC tools and strategies discussed are important for individuals with autism. This content is provided in both descriptive stories and with scientific data. The first two chapters provide an introduction to the strengths and challenges that individuals with autism experience in regards to communication.

Chapter three provides information on the AAC tools, devices and strategies that can be used to promote effective communication for individuals with autism. Cafiero covers the range from the low-tech picture communication symbol through high-tech electronic systems and everything inbetween. In addition to the descriptions of available tools and devices, there are personal stories of how these tools were used by individuals with autism to promote effective communication. Most importantly, Cafiero provides direct guidance and how-to instructions. 

AAC assessment is addressed in chapter four. Three distinct models of assessment are described and examples are given. The necessity of a quality assessment is highlighted. Cafiero states that the nature of learners with autism and the continued progress of technology require that the AAC assessment process be dynamic. Assessment decisions may need to be modified as the learner with autism gains skills and/or as technology development advances.

Chapter five is an overview of AAC and the law. Cafiero provides a comprehensive list of the laws that support the provision of AAC tools and supports. The majority of the chapter addresses the needs of children; however, there is some content for adults as well.

Cafiero’s book also includes a helpful section titled “frequently asked questions.” This question and answer format is reader-friendly and allows for quick access to the common areas of concern a reader might ponder.

Meaningful Exchanges for People with Autism should be considered a go-to resource for readers interested in providing effective language and communication interventions for individuals with autism.


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