Reflect, Interpret, Expand

To reflect, interpret, and expand on a student’s unique communication, is to vocalize what the behavior (facial expression, body language, or vocalization) is communicating and expand that communication by modeling on a device to shape more words.


To reflect a student’s communication, watch their body language, facial expressions, vocalizations, engagement. Reflect, “I see you smiling!”; Interpret, “Your smile says you LIKE playing with bricks ”; Expand, using a core board or device, say “MORE playing with bricks. Bricks are fun.”

In the example shown in the following video, the student is not happy. The student is sitting in the floor and crying.

Reflect: “you are crying”

Interpret: “crying means you are “mad”

Expand: Use a device to model – “You are crying, you are sad; you can say “I’m sad”.

Then you can offer help.

Image of AAC symbols

Video Example

In the following video clip, Simon is playing with shaving cream. The therapist offers him a choice of “more shaving cream” and shows him the can or “dry off” and shows him a towel. Simon’s choice isn’t clear, so they reflect his behavior and interpret from his continued play that he wants “more shaving cream”. They expand saying “I think you want more shaving cream, you “like it don’t you? You like messy”. They give him more shaving cream and help him play with it. After a few minutes, they offer “more shaving cream or dry off” and wait. Again, they aren’t sure what the behavior is telling them, so they interpret give him more shaving cream, reflect, and expand. On the third time they make the offer, he signs an approximation of the word “more” and they respond as meaningful.


Reflect, interpret, expand is a strategy for teaching/shaping communication behavior to let the student know that they are communicating a message.