• communicative competence;
  • augmentative and alternative communication;
  • communication impairment;
  • critical conceptual review



Understandings of ‘communicative competency’ (CC) have an important influence on the ways that researchers and practitioners in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) work toward achieving positive outcomes with AAC users. Yet, very little literature has critically examined conceptualizations of CC in AAC. Following an overview of the emergence of the concept of CC and of the field of AAC, we review seven conceptualizations of CC identified in the literature.


To consider the contributions and potential shortcomings of conceptualizations of CC in AAC.

Methods & Procedures

We use a critical theoretical approach to review, critique and synthesize conceptualizations of CC in AAC, with a particular focus on uncovering ‘taken for granted’ assumptions. By historically situating the reviewed literature, we examine the shifting boundaries and tensions among theoretical conceptualizations of CC in AAC and their potential impacts on practice.

Main contributions

We suggest ways that revisiting past scholarly work, alongside emergent, innovative conceptualizations of CC might shift ways of thinking about CC in AAC which tend to focus on the individual who communicates differently, toward (re)location of CC as a shared, socially incorporated and performed communication construct.

Conclusion & Implications

We propose that emerging critical perspectives drawn from AAC and other interdisciplinary literatures offer innovative ways of theorizing communication difference, which might inform evolving conceptualizations of CC in AAC.