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Caregivers, teachers and speech language pathologists must be reminded that augmentative and alternative (AAC) systems are only tools. The team must keep in mind the motto that to do a job right you need the right tools.  This typically requires a toolbox with different tools that might be needed to complete the job.  The same notion should be considered for a student with complex communication needs (CCNs) when determining what AAC tools are needed for the communication job. 

Selection of any AAC system(s) must be based on the student's abilities and difficulties, as well as the environments and the communication tasks involved.  In this module, a feature match approach will be presented looking at the continuum of AAC systems, from low- and mid- to high-tech communication systems, to determine which communication tools best meet the student's abilities, environments and communication needs.  After the feature match process, the team will brainstorm and develop a device trial implementation plan to identify and, finally, select appropriate AAC tools.  Trials should include data collection to evaluate the effectives of the devices being considered.  The module concludes with information about funding the selected communication system. 

Estimated Time to Complete: 2 hours

  • What's Included
  • 47 pages
  • Pre/post-assessments
  • Optional $20 certficate
  1. Define and explain how to conduct a feature match approach.
  2. Define low-, mid-, and high-tech communication systems.
  3. List two advantages and two disadvantages of low-, mid-, and high-tech communication systems.
  4. List two methods that can be used by a student with physical challenges to access a low-tech and high-tech communication system.
  5. Explain the pros and cons of using mobile communication systems (hardware and communication apps) with students with CCNs.

Module Authors

Gary Cumley, Ph.D, CCC-SLP

Gary Cumley, Ph.D., was a speech pathologist in California for 20 years prior to receiving his Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Cumley is retired faculty and chair of the School of Communicative Disorders at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP). At UWSP, he taught graduate courses in AAC, special populations, autism and school-age language. He also established a comprehensive clinical AAC program for adults and children with CCNs. He has published and co-authored Chapter 3, entitled "Assistive Technology for Communication" in the WATI - Assessing Students' Needs for Assistive Technology. Cumley has presented at state, national and international conferences on AAC.

Module Content Provided By

This module was developed in collaboration with WATI and provides updated content from the Assessing Students' Needs for Assistive Technology (ASNAT) - IDEA discretionary grant #: 9906-23. 1992-2009

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