Various AAC devices displayed on a table
Elena Fader presenting about AAC at a conference

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to a single tool or a combination of tools along a continuum of low- to high-tech options, such as paper-based boards with symbols or computers with vocabulary software programs.  As its’ name suggests, AAC can be an augmentative or supplemental support for a child or adult who speaks verbally but is unable to convey ALL messages in ALL environments and with ALL communication partners due to articulation errors, pragmatic differences, or language-based challenges.  AAC can also serve as an alternative support for individuals who are nonverbal due to developmental or acquired disabilities, and who otherwise would not have access to the basic human right of communication.  Further, research and experiences prove that appropriate AAC tools can facilitate a child’s speech and language development.

NEAT’s AAC services follow evidenced-based practices to comprehensively support individuals and teams throughout the consideration, exploration, and implementation processes.  Not only can AAC provide access to functional communication such as basic wants and needs, but it also allows for enhanced social interactions and productive conversations.  As such, the SLPs on staff are dedicated to helping each unique client enhance their interactions with our world via the power of communication.

AAC Evaluations help individuals, families, medical facilities, and/or schools identify a technology system that can support the communication needs of an individual with limited or no verbal speech. The process includes a review of records, intake form, and conversations with educators, support staff, clinicians, family members and the individual. Environmental observations and direct trials with various technology supports further guide the specialist through a feature matching process from which an appropriate AAC system can ultimately be identified. Within 4-6 weeks, the specialist will write a thorough report that summarizes the evaluation process, describes detailed recommendations, and provides research-based strategies paired with resources to guide the AAC implementation process. We take pride in reporting our comprehensive findings that can be used to bridge the gap between AAC and the client’s school/home/community settings. Upon request, the NEAT staff can be available to report these findings via phone or videoconferencing.

AAC Consultations help individuals, families, employers, medical facilities, and/or school teams determine the general technology needs of an individual with complex communication needs. The AAC Specialist can provide sessions in person, virtually, or following a hybrid service delivery model. Among other case-specific topics, the following concerns can be addressed during a consultation:

  • Can the client benefit from AAC?
  • Which features should a client’s AAC device contain?
  • Is the client’s existing AAC device appropriate?
  • Which alternative access method has the potential for providing a client with physical access to AAC?

The AAC Specialist will provide guidance in the form of clinical opinions and structured suggestions to support an individual/team in moving forward. Consultations typically last 2-3 hours and require the individual and/or staff to be present, as consultations do not yield written reports or written recommendations. If the team would like to request a brief, written summary of the consultation findings, an additional fee will be included.

Important to note: This report cannot be used to request insurance funding of a dedicated AAC device.

During AAC Coaching sessions, the AAC Specialist follows current evidence-based practices to guide an individual and his/her support team towards effectively incorporating the use of an AAC device within daily environments. This service is appropriate for individuals who are seeking support to expand their use of an AAC device currently in their possession. AAC Coaching can help an individual learn to use AAC to serve communicative functions within the realm of academics, social interactions, activities of daily living, vocational tasks, and more. The AAC Specialist can provide this service in a single session or on an ongoing basis. Sessions can be held in person, virtually, or following a hybrid service delivery model.

During AAC Therapy sessions, the AAC Specialist provides traditional speech therapy with integrated AAC intervention. By following a treatment plan with customized goals and objectives, the AAC Specialist guides the individual in broadening his/her use of an AAC device to subsequently develop his/her communication skills.  As appropriate and with permission, a digital portfolio will be created to share with the client’s family and agency- or school-based team to support skill generalization and to teach them research-based AAC intervention strategies. Sessions can be held at NEAT, in the individual’s home, or in the community as appropriate.

AAC Professional Development can help increase community knowledge and awareness of augmentative and alternative communication devices, apps and other related tools, accessories, and practices. NEAT can be invited to bring an AAC workshop to your location, or NEAT can host the presentation. Alternatively, NEAT staff can remote in through a webinar. Presentations can provide an in-depth overview of AAC, or they can focus on specific areas within the field of AAC. As applicable, presentations can incorporate time for exploration, practice, and hands-on experience with specific AAC tools along the AT continuum. AAC presentations are an excellent resource for college students, parents, school districts, and/ or human service professionals. See below for a list of current NEAT AAC professional development topics. Upon request, a presentation can be designed and customized to meet the specific needs of a given group.