Everyone communicates. Everyone communicates differently in different environments. Everyone regresses under stress.
Sometimes a person can speak intelligibly when they in good health and are not under stress. At other times they may need help.
Just expect change and hope that the best is yet to come!
AAC Assessment is holistic and
Consider student’s abilities
Current communication system
Consider the communication environments—home,
school, work, leisure.
Every AAC system is a work in progress!
“Today vs. Tomorrow” (Beukelman & Mirenda 2013)
Always honor the current communication system as you
work on the new one.
Communication partners—WE NEED
They can tell us about the current
They have background information about
They will be supporting the student’s
current and future communication
Barriers to communication
Speech, sensory and physical impairments
Functional Vision Assessment
Poor receptive language
Learned helplessness, fear of failure
In the physical world
In the attitudes and unexamined beliefs of other people
History of middle ear infections
Languages spoken at home
Languages spoken by relatives
Projects and homework
Leisure activity settings:
Uses a wheel chair
Manual: self propelled or partner propelled?
Can the student
Point with an isolated finger?
Use a standard keyboard?
Point with the whole hand or fist?
Use a pointer?
Use eye gaze to point?
Size of targets
Spacing of targets
Current Communication System
Can the student understand the speech of others?
Can she follow directions without gestural or
Does he require visual supports (pictures, gestures) to
understand spoken information?
Has she completed any formal language assessment?
Some assessments can be adapted for non-speaking
Criterion based assessment
Unaided Expressive Language
Spoken words or word approximations
Manual signs and natural gestures
Intelligibility in context?
With familiar listeners
With unfamiliar listeners
Ease of production
Consistency of production
Communication should be as effortless as possible!
Speech & Language
Expressive Language (cont.)
Intelligible to unfamiliar communication partners who know
Intelligible to unfamiliar communication partners?
Self injurious behaviors
What is the message?
I don’t want this. I want that.
I’m overwhelmed. I need a break.
I’m frustrated, angry, confused…
Written Language—the most
complete AAC system ever!
Writing & spelling skills
Reading and writing are basic human rights.
Identifying the client’s strengths or needs
Matching them to the features available in various AAC
Text to speech (with or without word prediction)
Picture symbols—PCSs, Wigit symbols, Pictographs, Symbol Stix,
Pixons, Bliss Symbols
Braille, Morse Code
Access method: eye control, touch screen, single switch, two
Accessories: mounting system, pointer, key guard, sun shield,
Features: Speech Output
Allows users to generate unique spoken messages
Appropriate to user’s age, gender and (in many cases)
Delivered at consistent pace and volume
Doesn’t sound like a real person
• Each message is recorded individually
• Great for singing Happy Birthday, telling jokes, making
animal noises and vocal interjections (Ahem! Ha! Doh!)
• Not consistent, rarely age and gender appropriate.
Features: No Speech Output
Technology free means:
You can drop it, throw it, get it wet! Never needs recharging!
Sometimes users get more social attention and face to face
interaction with tech free modes of communication.
PECS—Picture Exchange Communication System
Eye gaze board
w/ auditory scanning
Alphabetic, QWERTY, Dvorak or organized for
Adapted keyboard—larger size; one handed 5-finger
On screen keyboard
Size of text
Features: Switch Access
Step scanning (with one or two switches)
Row column, sequential (linear), rotary, block, other
Scanning mode—auditory, visual
Type of switch—button style, wafer, sip and puff, pillow,
squeeze, proximity, motion sensing
Switch access point—hand, head, chin, foot….