What is AAC?
AAC is used when an individual does not use speech. Sometimes this is temporary and other times this is lifelong. There are many methods of communication and we support a natural approach to communication
What is AT?
AT is any adaptive tool or technique to support individuals of determination throughout their daily life. This may look like a specialized keyboard, or environment control technology in the home.
AAC and AT at Talking Brains
Client-centered model of therapy: For children and adults we take into account their home, school/work, and social environment. Based on the client’s communicative and physical needs, the therapist can make recommendations for a communication system.
What does an AAC evaluation look like?
- Observation: The clinician will watch the individual interact with caregivers, educators, siblings, or friends to better understand communication strengths and challenges. This is also an opportunity to note physical needs, such as hand function, vision, and hearing.
- Interaction: The clinician will use a variety of methods to stimulate natural communication with the child or adult. We believe that communication should be inherently motivating.
- Brief trials: Based on observation and interaction, the therapist will create a trial strategy and/or tool to address the individual’s unique communication needs.
- Extended trials with family: After a brief trial and training, the family will trial the communication system at home and work on collecting data and targeting communication goals that are important to the individual.
- Discussion of recommendations: After multiple sessions over the course about 3-4 weeks, the clinician will meet with the family to discuss the best plan of action with AAC or AT.
- Report: A comprehensive report is written with overview of evaluation and equipment and therapeutic recommendations
- Training and support: After acquiring a system, the clinician will do a 1-session training for family, caregivers, and/or educational support. Further support and sessions may be needed.
This trial process is made possible by support from Consort World (www.consortworld.com) who lend us devices, apps, and software.
Ethics & Frequency
Ethics of the AAC therapist
AAC and AT therapists work with medical device vendors, app developers, devices, and other high-tech and low-tech systems. Communication systems are a financial and emotional investment. In order to provide an ethical AAC/AT assessment, the therapist cannot benefit from the purchase of any device or software. To address this issue, Talking Brains provides multiple suggestions of where to purchase items, both locally and in the individual’s home or requested country.
Intensive sessions vs. maintenance
The evaluation process for AAC devices is intensive, meaning that the individual is seen with high frequency and duration, or multiple times a week for at least an hour per session. This method of assessment and intervention can be more successful for families, as they can take therapeutic “breaks” in between intensives. Once the individual is communicating successfully, the goal is to only see the individual for maintenance sessions, to help with technical or vocabulary support.
Family and Community approach
Learning AAC is like learning a new language. Individuals will be successful when the whole family commits to participating in the process. It’s also crucial to communicate with AAC with the individual. This is called Aided Language Input or Aided Language Stimulation. We talk like the people around us, so we all need to be a model of communication. It is also best to view everyday interactions as communication opportunities, rather than “set up” situations that are not natural and unlikely to be repeated at home. This is the natural approach to communication, which is a hallmark of care at Talking Brains.
Creating an AAC literate “team”
including family, caregivers, educators, and/or employers
One of the most challenging aspects of AAC and AT is providing training across environments. It is important that not only the caregivers understand how an individual’s communication system works, but other people such as educators, need to also be able to understand the communication approach. Talking Brains can provide school and vocational training in the area of AAC and AT to support individuals with complex communication.