Ten Reasons Why “Content Is the Prize”: Updating “Performance Is the Prize” for the 21st Century

The award-winning article “Performance Is the Prize” was published in Augmentative and Alternative Communication more than 20 years ago. In it, Nelson argued that language competence, which is defined traditionally as what a person (a child with complex communication needs, in particular) knows about language, is not a stable hidden entity but actually can be different in different contexts, when different modalities are used for input and output, and when different levels of support are available from the environment. In this 2014 AAC by the Bay address, Nelson continues to support that view while updating it with arguments for keeping content at the center of models of communicative competence. She presents 10 reasons and associated assessment and intervention suggestions for how and why parents, teachers, clinicians, and individuals with complex communicative needs (all of us really) should focus on a person’s ideas as an essential component of becoming competent learners and users of spoken and written language in school and society.