ABLEDATA Fact Sheet on Communicators
Communicators are portable electronic devices that are intended to provide individuals who have limited or no ability to speak with the ability to take participate in direct, face-to-face, real-time conversation. These products speak when the user presses a button or touchscreen icon, types on an alphanumeric keyboard, or activates a specialized control switch designed for people with physical or neurological disabilities. Since 2001, Medicare has referred to portable electronic communicators as "speech generating devices" (SGD). [Footnote 1: According to AACFundingHelp.com, a Web site maintained by the Assistive Technology Law Center, the term SGD was coined by a Medicare policy-making body in an October 2000 policy document that was implemented in January 2001. (See "History of Medicare SGD Funding" at http://aacfundinghelp.com/funding_programs/medicare_history.html, and "SGD or AAC Device?" at http://aacfundinghelp.com/fast_facts.html#1.) Information obtained on March 7, 2008.] Other names for them include voice output communication aids (VOCA) or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.
Communication is necessary for practical purposes, and perhaps more importantly, communication is necessary for social interaction. Humans are social beings, and communication is an essential part of each person's life. We need to communicate with others in almost every aspect of our lives--at work, while shopping, at school, and at home.
Although the need to communicate is universal, many people with disabilities have additional communication needs. For example, people with severe physical or neurological disabilities may require assistance in activities of daily living and must be able to make their needs known to personal assistants or caregivers. Similarly, individuals whose disability is the result of a medical condition such as stroke need to communicate frequently to share information on their condition with medical professionals.
Portable communicators can benefit individuals with a wide variety of disabilities or conditions that impair that person's ability to speak, including:
- ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig's disease)
- Aphasia (inability to speak following brain injury or stroke)
- Brain injury
- Dysarthria (difficulty in articulation, common among individuals with brain injury, CP, or MS)
- Laryngectomy (surgical removal of the larynx or vocal cords)
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Muscular dystrophy
- Quadriplegia or high level spinal cord injury (SCI)
- Severe cognitive disabilities
This fact sheet describes the different types of portable electronic communicators, including single message communicators, direct selection communicators, keyboard communicators and scanning communicators, as well as the features that are available. It discusses how communicators can be useful for individuals with specific disabilities and presents considerations in choosing a communicator. This fact sheet provides contact information for manufacturers and distributors; a bibliography; and, finally, a list of organizations and Internet resources that can provide additional information on communicators and communication disabilities.
Types of Communicator and Their Features
Single Message Communicators
Some communicators offer only one message per device. The user presses a button, and a digitally recorded message is played back. Since many single message communicators consist of a large electro-mechanical button with recording and playback capability, they are sometimes called button communicators. The buttons tend to be large (two inches or more in diameter) to accommodate users with limited fine motor skills, as they are often used by children with severe physical or neurological disabilities.
Figure 1: The Big Talk from Enabling Devices is a single message communicator, playing one recorded message up to 20 seconds long.
Messages can be recorded by a parent, teacher, or other caregiver directly on the communicator. Often, there is a slot or plastic pocket near the button or cell, into which a photo, picture, word, or icon printed on a slip of paper is inserted to identify the message. On some communicators, the slot or pocket is located directly over the button or cell, which is pressed through the icon or picture.
Message icons are similar to icons on a computer desktop. They consist of a drawing, often with a single word or phrase as a caption. The drawing can be abstract (symbolic), but the icons used on single message communicators tend to have drawings that are easily understandable. For example, the icon for "yes" might be a smiling face with movement lines above and below the face, while the icon for "no" might be a frowning face with movement lines to the right and left of the face. A photo of the child's favorite food might be used to identify the message "I am hungry," while a photo of Mom might be used for some other message. Software is available for creating icons or printing them from icon libraries.
It is possible to use two or more single message communicators together so that more than one message can be communicated with them. For example, to enable someone with severe physical disabilities who cannot speak to answer questions, two single message communicators can be used, one with the message "Yes" and the other with the message "No." Similarly, a household or classroom might have one single message communicator to enable a non-verbal child to communicate the message "I am hungry," and another to allow the child to communicate the message "I need to go to the bathroom."
Single message communicators come with buttons in a variety of bright colors, so it is also possible to use colors to distinguish different messages, without photos or icons.
Some individuals cannot press an electro-mechanical button, no matter how large. For these individuals, a motion-sensitive single message communicator is available, and some button-input single message communicators can be connected to special switches designed to allow individuals with severe physical or neurological disabilities to operate electronic devices. Scanning communicators are also designed for switch operation; for a fuller explanation of switches, see below in the section on scanning communicators.
Figure 2: The No Touch Talker from Attainment Company plays its single recorded message when the user moves near to the device.
Many single message communicators can also activate a toy or other device at the same time the message is spoken. This capability can support cause-and-effect training for children born with severe physical disabilities, such as spasticity in all four limbs, who may have trouble learning that a certain action that they take has a particular effect in the outside world. Once this lesson is learned, the child may be able to communicate in a more complex way.
Button communicators are not the only kind of single message communicator. For example, some single message communicators resemble greeting cards or passports, with a slot for a picture on the cover (and/or on the inside of the front cover) and a button on the inside. The resemblance is appropriate, since one possible use for single message communicators of this type is to allow a non-verbal individual to introduce him- or herself.
Figure 3: The GoTalk Card from Attainment Company is a single message communicator in a wallet-style format. It holds two pictures--one on the front and one inside the front cover.
Who Can Benefit
Because of their simplicity, single message communicators are often used by individuals with severe cognitive disabilities. They are also used to train young children with communication or speech impairments who are just learning to communicate. For example, a child with severe speech impairments due to cerebral palsy can be taught to communicate using a single message communicator; then, once the child has learned the principles of a communicator, he or she may begin to use one with more message choices.
Direct Selection Communicators
A direct selection communicator offers the user a choice of recorded messages. Depending on the model, the selection is made by pressing an electro-mechanical button, a flat panel cell, or an icon on a touchscreen display. A direct selection communicator may have as few as two recorded messages to choose from, or it may have hundreds of messages.
To allow for more messages to be stored in a single communicator, many direct selection communicators have multiple levels, each with a different set of messages. Levels are selected by pressing a supplemental button, cell, or icon dedicated to level selection. Some users put related messages on one level; for example, on a three-level communicator, one level could be devoted to eating and dressing, another level to school work, and the third level to conversational messages.
Direct selection communicators include four types of communication units:
- units with an unchanging arrangement of buttons or cells (a fixed or static display) on a single level
- units with a fixed layout on multiple levels
- units with multiple levels and a display layout that can be changed by replacing an overlay
- units with a dynamic display.
Static Display Layout, One Level
The simplest direct selection communicators have a limited number of raised electro-mechanical buttons or flat panel cells in a fixed or static layout, with one message for each button or cell. The user selects a message by pressing the button or cell for that message. Although the arrangement of buttons or cells is static, icons may be changed either individually or by means of an overlay, a sheet containing icons for all the cells on the display. Buttons or cells may be arranged in a line ("in-line" configuration), in columns and rows, or in other configurations such as a semi-circle.
Figure 4: Partner Four from Advanced Multimedia Devices Inc. (AMDi) is a four-message, inline-display direct selection communicator with a 1 inch by 4 inch layout on one level and actile feedback for visually impaired users. The layout is static, but the icons can be changed.
Direct selection communicators with a limited number of messages (for example, 2, 3, 4, 8, or 16 messages) usually have built-in recording capability, allowing a family member, caregiver, teacher, or therapist to record messages that are appropriate for the individual user. Messages can be re-recorded as a person's needs change. The available recording time may be as little as a few seconds per message, enough for a phrase or short sentence. When a manufacturer states how much recording time is available for a communicator, it is important to notice whether the stated recording time is per message or a maximum total for all messages.
Static Layout, Multiple Levels
A second type of direct selection communicator has a static layout of buttons or cells, but with multiple levels holding different sets of messages. Communicators of this type are sometimes described as having fixed or static displays, but only the arrangement of the icons is fixed, not the icons themselves. For example, a static display communicator with multiple levels may have nine icons arranged in three rows, with each row containing three icons. If the communicator has three levels, the layout is the same on each level, but each level may have a completely different set of icons and messages from those on the other two levels. As a result, the communicator can express as many as 27 different messages.
Levels can be adapted to different situations in daily life. When a user or caregiver changes levels so that the communicator's messages are appropriate to the user's current surroundings (such as going from home to school), he or she also changes the communicator's overlay so that the icons correspond to the new messages.
Figure 5: The Go Talk 9+ from Attainment Company has a fixed display layout with 9 changeable message cells, plus 3 cells for messages that remain the same on every level. It has 5 levels for a total of 45 changeable messages. Software is available for creating icon overlays for the 9 changeable cells.
Figure 6: Some communicators have carrying handles, like this Smart Talk from Advanced Multimedia Devices, Inc. (AMDi), an 8-cell direct selection communicator with a fixed layout and 6 levels.
Multiple Cell Layouts, Changed by Inserting an Overlay
A third type of direct selection communicator has multiple levels with different layouts on each level. Each layout may feature a different number of icons and/or different arrangements of the icons. To change the layout, the user or a caregiver changes the overlay. In some models, the communicator automatically detects a new overlay and changes the level accordingly while other communicators require the user to indicate which level is appropriate for the overlay in use.
There are several possible uses for a communicator with various layouts on multiple levels. The different layouts can be used to adapt to a child's increasing level of understanding, or to the decreasing manual dexterity of an adult with ALS or MS. To learn how a communicator works, a child can start with one message on the first level; then, to learn about choosing a message, the child can advance to two messages on the second level. When ready, the child can advance to levels with more choices. An adult with a condition that can result in changes in manual dexterity over time might prefer to purchase a communicator that can be adapted as the individual's dexterity decreases and it is easier to choose from a smaller number of larger cells.
Figure 7: The Talara from Zygo Industries is a direct selection communicator that offers several layouts including 1 row with 2 buttons; 1 row with 4 buttons; 2 rows that each have 2 buttons; 2 rows that each have 4 buttons; and 4 rows that each have 8 buttons. The layout is changed by replacing one overlay with another.
Many communicators today have dynamic touchscreen displays that allow the user to change the content and layout of what appears on the communicator's touch screen electronically, without overlays. With multiple levels, it is easy to go from one type of display to another. For example, message icons can be replaced by words, letters, or pictures, and one set of message icons can be replaced by another. The number of icons on the screen and their arrangement can also be changed, allowing the user to choose between an onscreen display with fewer but larger message icons or a display with more message icons of a smaller size. For example, the display could be set up to have 1, 2, 4, 8, or 16 message cells. Changes can be made separately by level.
Figure 8: The Vantage from Prentke Romich is a direct selection communicator with a dynamic display that includes 4-, 8-, 15-, and 45-location display options.
In order to provide more message options, dynamic display communicators have multiple display levels. The number of possible messages equals the maximum number of message cells on the dynamic display multiplied by the number of levels. However, users may choose to have less than the maximum number of icons on their dynamic display, resulting in fewer messages.
Dynamic display communicators can be purchased pre-loaded with icons and digitally recorded speech, but generally the user can also add other icon sets or personal images such as photos.
Figure 9: Easy Talk from The Great Talking Box Company is a dynamic display communicator with icons for recorded messages and an alphabetic keyboard for synthesized speech.
Icons and Recordings
Like single message communicators, most single-level direct selection communicators have built-in digital recording capability so that a caregiver or family member can record the messages to be played back on the communicator. However, it is impractical for a caregiver or family member to personally record all the messages on a communicator with more than a limited number of messages. For this reason, most multi-level direct selection communicators and all dynamic display communicators use icons with prerecorded digital messages, loaded onto the communicator from icon library software. Some dynamic display communicators also have a keyboard communicator level that produces synthesized speech.
Who Can Benefit
To use a direct selection communicator, it is necessary to have enough hand control to touch the desired button or cell. The larger the button or cell size, the less control is required. Direct selection communicators may not be appropriate for everyone. For a person with upper extremity spasticity, for example, a scanning communicator may be more appropriate as it uses a special switch or other input device designed to be more easily accessed by someone with severe physical or neurological disabilities.
A direct selection communicator also requires that users possess enough hand strength to press the button or cell. Larger buttons and cells require as much strength as small ones. An individual without enough strength to depress the communicator's buttons or cells may also do better with a scanning communicator with which they can use a specialized input device that does not require a button or switch to be pressed or otherwise moved.
Children and adults with cognitive disabilities are likely to do better with simpler direct selection communicators; that is, those with fewer messages on fewer levels. Inline configurations may also be easier for some individuals with severe cognitive disabilities.
A keyboard communicator has an alphabetic or alphanumeric keyboard. The user types whatever he or she wants to say, and the message is produced by text-to-speech (TTS) software combined with a sound card. For this reason, keyboard communicators are sometimes called text-to-speech or TTS communicators. The synthesized speech produced by means of TTS often has a poorer sound quality than the digitized (recorded) speech used on single message and direct selection communicators, and synthesized speech is often less intelligible than digitized speech, especially to individuals with hearing impairments and those who are not used to it.
Figure 10: The Allora, from Technology and Integration Inc. (TNI), is a keyboard communicator that speaks word and sentences typed by the user.
Who Can Benefit
A major advantage of a keyboard communicator is that it does not depend on pre-recorded messages. It can speak anything the user can type. Because it provides the ability to create new messages that have not been previously recorded, a keyboard communicator may be very attractive to a speech-impaired individual with full cognitive abilities and sufficient manual dexterity to operate a keyboard.
For individuals with severe upper extremity disabilities who wants the advantages of a keyboard communicator but who cannot operate a keyboard directly, a scanning keyboard communicator may be an option. A scanning keyboard communicator uses a specialized input device, such as a single switch, to select a specific key and type the corresponding letter.
Text-to-speech software is language-specific, so a keyboard communicator that supports English may not support Spanish or other languages. When purchasing a keyboard communicator, it is important to make sure it supports whatever languages are needed.
Listeners with hearing impairments often have more difficulty understanding synthesized speech than do individuals with good hearing, so this should be taken into account if the user's spouse, family members, friends or co-workers have hearing disabilities.
Many individuals with physical or neurological disabilities have difficulty pressing a button, key, or touchscreen icon. To overcome this problem, a scanning communicator presents the user with a series of buttons, icons, or keys to choose from, and allows the user to make a selection indirectly, by activating a special switch or other input device designed to be more easily accessed by someone with severe physical or neurological disabilities. The switch or switches are attached to the unit via an input jack. During the scanning process, each message icon or key becomes the focus of attention in turn. A light may appear next to or above the focus icon or key, or the icon or key may be framed in light or illuminated in some other way. There is a pause before the scanning process moves on to the next icon or key, and during this pause the user can activate a switch in order to select the message and have it played.
Figure 11: On the Scan4, from Traxsys Inclusive, a red LED (light emitting diode) lights up over each message icon in turn, and the user activates a switch when the desired message is reached.
Some scanning communicators have audible scanning output for users with visual disabilities who cannot see icons or keys identified through illumination. For example, different buttons may be identified with different tones. The first button may be identified by the highest tone, the second by a slightly lower tone, and so on.
Switches come in many different styles to accommodate different needs. Some are designed to be activated by slight pressure or through specific movements such as a squeeze or a touch. Others are designed to be activated by a specific part of the body, such as the head, eye, chin, tongue, or foot. Pneumatic or sip-and-puff switches are designed to be activated by breathing or blowing. Some switches are extra large to accommodate individuals with spasticity or limited control of arm movements. Other switch types include joystick switches and eyegaze or blink-controlled switches.
Figure 12: The wireless Jelly Beamer switch, from Ablenet, has a 2.5-inch-diameter activation surface, which can be pressed during scanning by a user with fine motor disabilities.
Figure 13: The Pneumatic Switch from Prentke Romich is a sip-and-puff switch that can be used by an individual with quadriplegia or other severe physical disabilities to operate a scanning communicator.
Figure 14: The Grasp Switch, from Tash, is held in the user's hand and activated with a squeeze.
Figure 15: The Pillow Switch, from Tash, has a smooth, soft surface that makes it a suitable switch for head or cheek activation.
For more information on the variety of switches available, see Control Switches under "Controls" in the Products section on the ABLEDATA Web site.
Scanning communicators can be operated in various scanning modes, which differ by what path the scanning takes through the buttons, keys, or icons; by whether a single switch or two or more switches are used; and by whether scanning is completely automatic ("automatic scanning") or partly user-directed ("directed scanning"). Scanning modes include linear scanning, circular scanning, row/column scanning, and block/row/column scanning. Many units can be operated in more than one scanning mode, selected by the user.
Linear scanning proceeds item by item automatically. The communicator starts at the left of the top row of icons or buttons, proceeds across each row, and moves down to the next row as each row is completed. Linear scanning requires only one switch, which is used to select the message when it comes up on the scan.
If the communicator's message choices are arranged in a circle rather than in rows and columns, scanning goes around the circle (circular scanning). Circular scanning also uses just one switch for message selection. If no message is selected, the scan may repeat automatically, providing the user with an opportunity to consider all the options before making a selection on the second go-around.
Row/column scanning starts at the top row of buttons or message icons and moves down row by row. When the user selects a row, the scan starts moving through the columns in that row, pausing at each, and when the desired button or icon is reached, the user selects it. On a QWERTY keyboard, for example, the user might first select the second letter row then pick the letter in the second column, S. Row/column scanning is quicker than linear scanning, since many items are skipped on the way to the desired item.
Row/column scanning can be done with one switch or with two or more switches. In one-switch row/column scanning, as rows are being scanned, activating the switch selects a row; then, as columns are being scanned within the selected row, activating the switch selects the message. In row/column scanning with multiple switches, one or more switches are used for navigation, that is, for moving up or down the rows or left or right within a row. Scanning is user-controlled. One switch is reserved for selecting the message.
Block/row/column scanning is similar to row/column scanning except that the user first selects a group of rows and columns (for example, the numbers, the letters, or the pictures), then selects the row and column as in row/column scanning.
Single switch scanning generally involves automatic movement from one message choice to the next, with the single switch being used to select messages. In directed scanning, the user employs multiple switches to direct the focus of the system to the desired item, and then selects it with a switch.
Who Can Benefit
As noted, scanning communicators can provide access for individuals with physical or neurological disabilities who cannot choose messages through direct selection or type them on a keyboard. Many individuals with ALS, cerebral palsy, or quadriplegia may find a scanning communicator useful. However, other considerations affect the degree to which an individual with severe physical disabilities can benefit from a scanning communicator, including the types of switch the individual can use, the scanning methods the individual can handle, the individual's cognitive abilities, and the kind(s) of communication in which the individual wishes to engage. For example, direct scanning on a keyboard is simpler but more time-consuming than block/row/column scanning. If the user's physical and cognitive abilities make the simple scanning option preferable, the user may have to forgo a scanning keyboard in favor of scanning icons with recorded messages.
Communicators with Multiple Options
Many single- or multi-level fixed display direct selection communicators and keyboard communicators offer scanning as an option. Dynamic display communicators often go one better, offering direct selection and keyboard entry, with scanning as an option for both the keyboard and the message icons.
Who Can Benefit
Direct selection and keyboard selection may be useful to the same individual in different circumstances. The former is useful for commonly repeated expressions, while the latter is useful for unique or uncommon expressions. A user may therefore wish to have both options available.
An individual who has the physical capacity to use direct selection or a keyboard, but who is concerned about the possibility of losing this capacity in the future, may wish to have a device he or she can continue to use as time goes by.
An eye-controlled communicator (often referred to as an "eyegaze communicator") is a communicator that allows the user to select messages by focusing his or her eyes on an icon or letters. A camera is pointed at the user's face, and software determines where on the screen the user's gaze is focused. Until recently, eye-controlled systems have not been truly portable, since they have had at least three components (a monitor, a camera aimed at the user from next to the monitor, and a computer running the software), but today systems are available in which the camera and computer are built into the same unit as the monitor. The user may be seated in bed or in a wheelchair.
Figure 16: The MyTobii P10 from Tobii Assistive Technology Inc. is a portable eye-controlled communicator. The camera and software are built into the monitor unit.
Who Can Benefit
Eye-controlled communicators are useful to individuals with severe upper extremity disabilities, including quadriplegia.
A computer-based portable communicator is a handheld computer loaded with communicator software. Three types are available:
- A "dedicated" computer that comes pre-loaded with communicator software but is not fully functional as a computer
- A fully functional computer that comes pre-loaded with communicator software
- A fully functional computer loaded with separately purchased computer software.
With a Windows or Macintosh operating system and applications, a computer-based communicator can be fully functional as a handheld computer. However, Medicare has determined that it will not cover a computer-based communicator unless it can only be used as a communicator, not as a computer. A system of this sort is called a "dedicated" communicator. As a result of this decision by Medicare, companies that offer computer-based communicators usually offer customers a choice of purchasing them as dedicated communicators or, for more money, as systems with full computer functions. If an individual already owns a handheld computer, communicator software may be purchased for loading onto the computer.
Sequential Message Communicators
A sequential message communicator, also called a sequencer, is a one-button communicator that plays a series of messages. The first time the button is pressed, the first message is played, then the second message is played when the button is pressed a second time, and so on. A common use for a sequential message communicator is to support a simple conversation. For example, the first message might by "Hello!"; the second message might be "My name is ___. What's yours?"; the third message might be "How are you today?"; and so on.
Figure 17: The Sequencer, from Adaptivation, plays a series of messages. Each time the button on top is pressed, the next message in the series is played.
Who Can Benefit
Sequential message communicators are useful to individuals with severe cognitive disabilities who have difficulty carrying on a conversation without prompting, including children and teenagers who are still learning to communicate.
Common communicator options include wheelchair mounting hardware, special carrying options, and environmental control unit (ECU) capability.
Many individuals with speech disabilities, such as dysarthria, also have physical disabilities that prevent them from carrying a portable communicator with their upper limbs. As an alternative, some units are designed to be worn on other parts of the body, for example, around the waist. Others can be mounted on a powered wheelchair, positioned so that the user can operate the communicator buttons, keyboard, or switch.
Figure 18: The Hip Talker, from Enabling Devices, is a two-message direct selection communicator designed to be worn by a child around the waist.
Figure 19: A Macaw direct selection and scanning communicator, from Zygo Industries, can be mounted on a wheelchair using a swing-away mount from Daedulus Technologies.
Some communicators are available with the ability to interface with environmental controls for operating household systems (such as lights or a thermostat), appliances and electronic devices (such as televisions and computers). The communicator uses infrared signals to relay commands remotely to the environmental controls or to electronic devices. For some home entertainment products that often come with their own infrared remote controls (such as televisions and DVD players), some communicators are able to interface with them using the same command codes as are used by the remote controls.
Selecting a Communicator
As the preceding discussion shows, there are many choices to be made when selecting a communicator.
- Single message, sequential message, or message selection?
- Select messages using direct selection, scanning, or keyboard entry?
- Number of messages?
- Symbols, pictures, photos, words?
- Recorded or synthesized speech?
- Fixed display or dynamic display?
- One level or multiple levels?
- Buttons, switches, or touchscreen?
- If a person needs a switch input, what type of switch?
Because there are so many different types of communicators with such a variety of features, determining the right communicator for a given individual can be difficult. Which communicator will benefit a user depends on that person's situation, communication needs, and wishes, in addition to their cognitive and physical abilities. This combination of factors must be matched to the right type of communicator, taking into account the complexities of dynamic displays, scanning modes, and switches. The notes presented in this fact sheet on "Who Can Benefit" from each type of communicator often only scratch the surface.
To identify the right communicator, it is advisable to contact a speech and language therapist or an assistive technology specialist with knowledge of augmentative and alternative communication. The professional should help the user, that person's family, and other concerned parties to make a list of relevant needs, wishes, and abilities. If the user is a child, parents and teachers should be involved; for a married adult, the spouse should be involved; and it should never be forgotten that the user must be involved too. One of the disadvantages faced by people with communication disabilities is that their wishes may not be recognized by others because of their inability make those wishes known. Even a single message communicator chosen for a child with profound cognitive disabilities will not succeed if the child rejects it.
Many of the companies that sell communicators allow users to try the device for a period of time before purchasing it. Since many communicators are quite expensive, it is wise to determine if a company makes this offer, and to take advantage of it.
The following Web pages provide guidance for consumers on the communicator selection process.
- From the United Cerebral Palsy Association Web site:
"Selecting an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Device for Your Child"
- From the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Web site:
"Information for AAC Users"
Paying for a Communicator
Although some single message communicators cost less than $100, many communicators cost thousands. Paying for a communicator is, therefore, a serious concern. Possible sources of assistance include insurance programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance; public school special education programs; private charities; Alternative Financing (loan) Programs; and veteran's benefits.
Medicare began covering speech generating devices (communicators) in 2001. Before then, nearly every claim submitted to Medicare was rejected on the ground that communicators were not medically necessary. As with other medical devices, communicators must be prescribed by a qualified professional before Medicare will consider payment.
Medicaid is a joint Federal-state program in which coverage is mandated in each state for certain categories of service and coverage is optional for other categories of service. There has been considerable litigation over whether communicators fall into a mandated or an optional category. Currently, most states cover communicators under their Medicaid programs.2 [2 See "Medicaid and Assistive Technology: A Fresh Look at Medicaid as an AT Funding Source," p. 305.] Medicaid is more likely to cover a communicator for a child than for an adult as part of the EPSDT (Early Periodic Screening, Diagnosis, and Treatment) program. Under EPSDT, Medicaid beneficiaries under age 21 are entitled to services under all mandatory and optional Medicaid categories, including those optional categories not covered for adults in that state. Courts have ruled that communicators are covered by EPSDT.3 [3 See "Medicaid, Assistive Technology, and the Courts: An Updated Summary of AT-Related Federal and State Court Decisions," pp. 376-377.]
There is no uniform standard or rule for coverage by private insurance policies, and many do not cover communicators even when prescribed by a qualified professional.
Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), local school districts may pay for devices and auxiliary aids used by a child with disabilities if the products are necessary for that child to function in the classroom. Parents must be prepared to demonstrate how the communicator will enhance their child's ability to obtain an appropriate education in the least restrictive environment possible, which is the legal requirement under IDEA. A justification for purchase of a communicator must be included in the child's annual Individualized Education Program (IEP), which describes the goals set for the child for each school year, as well as any special supports that are needed to help achieve those goals. The IEP is developed jointly by teachers, parents, school administrators, related services personnel, and students (when appropriate).
A few private organizations, including the National Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and the National Organization Caring for Kids (NOCK), may provide funding for communicators and other assistive technology for children with disabilities. Both MDA and NOCK require devices to be recommended by professionals associated with the organization. For an updated list of assistive technology funding sources, including many private charities, go to the ABLEDATA Funding Resource Center.
Alternative Financing Programs
Many states have Alternative Financing Programs established to help individuals with disabilities to obtain loans to pay for assistive technology such as communicators. As with any loan, the borrower must show evidence of capacity to repay the loan. The ABLEDATA Web site includes an updated list of Alternative Financing Programs.
Veterans may be entitled to augmentative and alternative communication devices as part of their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care benefits if the device is determined to be medically necessary. In addition, the VA's Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Service may provide employment-related assistive technology as part of its Independent Living Program. Contact information for each of these VA programs is provided in the list of Resources below.
For a more complete discussion of funding for assistive technology, see the ABLEDATA Informed Consumer's Guide to Funding Assistive Technology, which can be viewed or downloaded for free from the ABLEDATA Web site.
Manufacturers and Distributors
The following companies sell the types of communicators described in this Fact Sheet. For each manufacturer or distributor, we have provided full contact information (including street address, telephone number, text telephone number, fax number, e-mail address, and Web address) and a list of the types of products sold. This information is current as of March, 2008.
Ability Research, Inc.
PO Box 1721
Minnetoka, Minnesota 55345-0721
Product type(s): dynamic display.
2808 Fairview Avenue North
Roseville, Minnesota 55113
Telephone: 800-322-0956 toll free or 651-294-2223.
Product type(s): single message, direct selection, scanning, and sequential message; switches; mounting systems.
55 East Long Lake Road
Troy, Michigan 48085
Product type(s): direct selection, scanning.
2225 West 50th, Suite 100
Sioux Falls, South Dakota 57105
Telephone: 800-723-2783 toll free or 605-335-4445.
Product type(s): single message, direct selection, scanning, sequential message; switches.
2 Meadowlark Road
Gloucester, Ontario K1J 8N8
Telephone: 888-866-1668 toll free or 613-744-1971.
Product type(s): direct selection, keyboard
AMDi (Advanced Multimedia Devices, Inc.)
200 Frank Road
Hicksville, New York 11801
Telephone: 888-353-2634 toll free or 516-822-0808.
Product type(s): single message, direct selection, scanning, dynamic display; switches.
AssistiveWare, a division of Niemeijer Consult
Van Speijkstraat 73-D
Amsterdam, 1057 GN
Product type(s): Direct selection and scanning communicator software installable on portable device.
Attainment Company Inc.
P.O. Box 930160
504 Commerce Parkway
Verona, Wisconsin 53593-0160
Telephone: 800-327-4269 toll free or 608-845-7880.
Fax: 800-942-3865 toll free or 608-845-8040.
Product type(s): single message, direct selection; overlay software.
Aurora Systems, Inc.
Burnaby, British Columbia V5G-4S2
Telephone: 888-290-1133 or 604-291-6310.
Product type(s): keyboard communicator software installable on a portable device.
Blink Twice, Inc.
900 Broadway, 8th Floor
New York, New York 10003
Telephone: 877-254-6511 toll free.
Product type(s): direct selection, scanning.
CHI Centers Inc.
10501 New Hampshire Avenue
Silver Spring, Maryland 20903
Telephone: 301-445-3350, extension 197.
Product type(s): direct selection.
Crestwood Communication Aids, Inc.
P.O. Box 090107
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53209-0107
Product type(s): direct selection; switches.
Daedalus Technologies, Inc.
2491 Vauxhall Place
Richmond, British Columbia V6V 1Z5
Product type(s): mounting systems.
Digital Acoustics Corporation
1 Compobeach Road, Suite 100
Westport, Connecticut 06880
Product type(s): speech synthesizers that connect directly to computer keyboards, making a keyboard communicator.
Dynavox Systems LLC
2100 Wharton Street, Suite 400
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15203
Telephone: 800-344-1778 toll free or 412-381-4883.
Product type(s): direct selection, scanning, dynamic display; Palmtop- and PocketPC- based communicators.
385 Warburton Avenue
Hastings-On-Hudson, New York 10706
Telephone: 800-832-8697 toll free or 914-478-0960.
Product type(s): single message, direct selection, scanning; switches.
Eye Response Technologies
100 2nd Street, NW
Charlottesville, Virginia 22902
Product type(s): eyegaze communicator.
Forbes Rehab Services, Inc.
49 South Illinois Avenue
Mansfield, Ohio 44905
Telephone: 888-884-2190 toll free.
Fax: 877-884-9383 toll free.
Product type(s): direct selection, eyegaze.
Great Talking Box Company
2245 Fortune Drive, Suite A
San Jose, California 95131
Telephone: 877-275-4482 toll free or 408-456-0133.
Product type(s): direct selection, scanning, dynamic display.
Gus Communications, Inc.
1006 Lonetree Court
Bellingham, Washington 98226
Product type(s): direct selection, scanning, dynamic display; software (direct selection communicator program and overlay designer program).
H.K. Eyecan Ltd.
36 Burland Street
Ottawa, Ontario K2B 6J8
Telephone: 800-356-3362 toll free or 613-860-0333.
Product type(s): eyegaze.
LC Technologies Inc.
1483 Chain Bridge Road
McLean, Virginia 22101
Telephone: 800-393-4293 or 703-385-7133.
Product type(s): eyegaze.
Lingraphicare America, Inc.
15 Spring Street, 2nd Floor
Princeton, New Jersey 08542
Telephone: 888-274-2742 toll free or 609-683-7272.
Product type(s): direct selection.
P.O. Box 1579
Solana Beach, California 92075-1579
Telephone: 800-588-4548 toll free or 858-550-0084.
Product type(s): symbol / photo libraries with recorded messages.
One Write Company
3750 State Route 37 East
P.O. Box 628
Lancaster, Ohio 43130
Telephone: 800-268-6070 toll free.
Product type(s): direct selection, keyboard.
Rosetown, Saskatchewan S0L 2V0
Product type(s): software (symbolic picture library with speech).
Possum Controls Ltd.
8 Farmbrough Close
Stocklake Park Industrial Estate
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire HP20 1DQ
Telephone: 011-44-1296-461000 (Controls) or 011-44-1296-461002 (AAC).
Fax: 011-44-1296-461001 (Controls) or 011-44-8714-740433 (AAC).
Product type(s): keyboard, dynamic display; switches.
Prentke Romich Company
1022 Heyl Road
Wooster, Ohio 44691
Telephone: 800-262-1984 toll free or 330-262-1984.
Product type(s): direct selection, keyboard, scanning, dynamic display.
2143 Township Road #112
Millersburg, Ohio 44654
Telephone: 800-382-8622 toll free or 330-674-6722.
Product type(s): single message, direct selection, scanning, dynamic display; software (picture/vocabulary library); switches.
Sensory Software International Ltd.
26 Abbey Road
Malvern, WR14 3HD
Product type(s): software (symbol grids and direct selection communicator program).
3512 Mayland Court
Richmond, Virginia 23233
Telephone: 800-463-5685 toll free or 804-747-5020.
Product type(s): single message; switches; mounting systems.
Technology and Integration, Inc.
721 Winfree Ave.
Lakeland, Florida 33801
Product type(s): direct selection, keyboard.
Tobii Assistive Technology, Inc.
333 Elm Street
Dedham, Massachusetts 02026
Telephone: 800-793-9227 toll free or 781-461-8200.
Product type(s): direct selection, keyboard, scanning, eyegaze.
Toby Churchill, Ltd.
Norman Way Industrial Estate
Over, Cambridge CB24 5QE
Product type(s): direct selection, scanning.
Touch & Talk Software International
71158 Thole Road
Mellen, Wisconsin 54546
Telephone: 800-694-0628 toll free or 715-264-2810.
Product type(s): Software (direct selection and keyboard communicator program).
Traxsys Input Products
1 Embankment Way
Castleman Crossing Industrial Estate
Ringwood, Hampshire BH24 1EU
Product type(s): direct selection; switches.
Viking Software AS
Product type(s): direct selection, keyboard, scanning; software (symbol/word library).
42505 10th Street West
Lancaster, California 93534-7059
Telephone: 800-869-8521 toll free or 661-723-6523.
Product type(s): direct selection, scanning; software (direct selection and scanning communicator programs); switches.
Zygo Industries Inc.
P.O. Box 1008
Portland, Oregon 97207-1008
Telephone: 800-234-6006 toll free or 503-684-6006.
Product type(s): direct selection, keyboard, scanning, dynamic display; switches; mounting systems.
The following list includes the communicator distributors listed by ABLEDATA as of March, 2008. Below each company's contact information, we list the brands sold by that company.
11469 Olive Boulevard
St. Louis, Missouri 63141-7108
Telephone: 877-664-4565 toll free or 314-692-2424.
Fax: 800-664-4534 or 314-692-2428.
Sells products from Ablenet, Adamlab, AMDi, and Attainment Company.
Adaptive Solutions, Inc.
2127 Court Street
Port Allen, Louisiana 70767
Sells products from Ablenet, Adaptivation, AMDi, Attainment Company, Enabling Devices, Gus Communication, Tash, Tobii Assistive Technology Inc., and Zygo Industries.
150-5055 Joyce Street
Vancouver, British Columbia V5R 6B2
Telephone: 800-561-6222 or 604-431-7997.
Sells products from CJT Enterprises, Daedulus Technologies, Libego AB, Prentke Romich, Saltillo, and Tash.
Augmentative Communication Consultants Inc.
P.O. Box 731
Moon Township, Pennsylvania 15108
Telephone: 800-982-2248 toll free or 412-264-6121.
Sells products from Ablenet, AMDi, Attainment Company, Enabling Devices, Tash, Technology & Integration, Toby Churchill, Traxsys, and Zygo Industries.
B Independent, Inc.
921 Northlake Drive
Richardson, Texas 75080
Sells products from Attainment Company.
Dragonfly Toy Company
291 Yale Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3M 0L4
Telephone: 800-308-2208 toll free or 204-453-2222.
Sells products from Enabling Devices.
3545 Cruse Road, Suite 312
Lawrenceville, Georgia 30044
Telephone: 800-828-2443 toll free or 770-279-1144.
Sells products from Ablenet, Adaptivation, AMDi, Enabling Devices, Mayer-Johnson, Prentke Romich, Saltillo, Tash, and Toby Churchill.
5353 South 960 East, Ste. 200
Salt Lake City, Utah 84117
Telephone: 888-640-1999 toll free or 801-281-7682.
Sells products from Ablenet, AMDi, Attainment Company, Aurora Systems, Gus Communications, Mayer-Johnson, Tash, and Zygo Industries.
Environmental Health Science, Inc.
418 Wall Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08540
Telephone: 800-841-8923 toll free toll free or 609-924-7616.
Sells products from Ablenet, AMDi, Saltillo, Technology and Integration, Toby Churchill, and Zygo Industries.
601 Flaghouse Drive
Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey 07604-3116
Telephone: 800-793-7900 or 201-288-7600.
Fax: 800-793-7922 or 201-288-7887.
Sells products from Ablenet, Crestwood, and Enabling Devices.
2206 Legacy Oak Drive
Waxhaw, North Carolina 28173
Telephone: 800-462-0930 toll free or 704-243-3622.
Sells products from Ablenet, Adaptivation, AMDi, Attainment Company, Tash, and Traxsys.
Independent Living Technologies, Inc.
129 US Highway 70 West
Garner, North Carolina 27529
Telephone: 877-458-7687 toll free.
Fax: 866-518-9682 toll free.
Sells products from Ablenet, AMDi, Attainment Company, and Tash.
1794 East Main Street
Ventura, California 93001
Telephone: 800-397-0921 or 805-652-0770.
Sells products from Ablenet, Attainment Company, Mayer-Johnson, Saltillo, Tobii Assistive Technology Inc., and Viking Software.
Key Technologies, Inc.
411 South King Street
Maorganton, North Carolina 28655
Telephone: 888-433-5303 toll free or 828-433-5302.
Sells products from Ablenet, Adaptivation, Attainment Company, Mayer-Johnson, Saltillo, Words+, Zygo Industries.
2409 BelAir Drive
Bowie, Maryland 20715
Telephone: 800-466-7294 toll free.
Sells products from AMDi, Enabling Devices, Tash, and Technology and Integration.
P.O. Box 10636
Eugene, Oregon 97440
Telephone: 800-877-9378 toll free.
Sells products from Ablenet and Attainment Company
4823 S. Sheridan Road, Suite 302
Tulsa, Oklahoma 74145-5717
Telephone: 800-580-6086 toll free or 918-665-0329.
Sells products from Ablenet, Prentke Romich, Tash, and Zygo Industries.
14 Lynn Court
San Rafael, California 94901
Telephone: 800-317-9611 toll free or 415-455-9700.
Sells products from The Great Talking Box Company, Mayer-Johnson, and Tash.
Technology for Education, Inc.
1870 50th Street East, Suite 7
Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota 55077-1270
Telephone: 800-370-0047 or 651-457-1917.
Sells products from Ablenet, AMDi, Enabling Devices, Mayer-Johnson, and Tash.
Turning Point Therapy & Technology Inc.
P.O. Box 310945
New Braunfels, Texas 78131-0945
Telephone: 877-608-9812 or 830-608-9812.
Sells products from Ablenet, AMDi, Attainment Company, Gus Communications, Tash, and Traxsys.
Woodlake Technologies, Inc.
650 West Lake Street, Suite 320
Chicago, Illinois 60661
Telephone: 800-253-4391 toll free or 312-655-9200.
Sells products from Ablenet, AMDi, Aurora Systems, CJT Technologies, The Great Talking Box Company, Mayer-Johnson, Saltillo, Sensory Software International, Tobii Assistive Technology Inc., Toby Churchill, Viking Software, and Zygo Industries.
The records in ABLEDATA are provided for information purposes only. Neither the U.S. Department of Education nor Macro International Inc. has examined, reviewed, or tested any product, device, or information contained in ABLEDATA. The Department and Macro International Inc. make no endorsement, representation, or warranty express or implied as to any product, device, or information set forth in ABLEDATA.
For an updated list of Web links to manufacturers and distributors, go to the ABLEDATA Web site, http://www.abledata.com.
1 Voice is a network and support group for children who use AAC and their families. It holds weekend networking events and conferences for families, teens, and younger children in the United Kingdom.
The AAC Institute is a resource for all who are interested in enhancing the communication of people who rely on augmentative and alternative communication. A not-for-profit charitable organization, the AAC Institute offers information and provides services worldwide.
Maintained by two certified speech language pathologists, this Web site includes AAC products and presentations on AAC intervention. The purpose of their work is to encourage functional communication within an activity-based framework.
The ACE Centre provides assessment and training services for children with complex physical and communication difficulties, with a focus on communication technology.
ACOLUG - Augmentative Communication On-Line Users Group
Institute on Disabilities at Temple University
1601 N. Broad Street
University Services Building, Suite 610
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122
ACOLUG is an Internet Listserv which allows users of augmentative communication and their families to communicate with each other and with professionals who are interested in augmentative communication. To subscribe to ACOLUG, all that is needed is a computer with an Internet connection and an email address.
AGOSCI is an Australian group representing people with complex communication needs, as well as those who live, know or work with people with them. Augmentative and alternative communication is a key area of interest.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
10801 Rockville Pike
Rockville, Maryland 20852
Telephone: 800-638-8255 toll free.
The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) is the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for more than 123,000 speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech, language, and hearing scientists in the United States and internationally. Its Web site offers information for consumers, including the following pages on AAC devices:
- Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Topics covered include: What is AAC? What are the types of AAC systems? What other organizations have information on AAC?
- Augmentative Communication: A Glossary
- Information for AAC Users
Topics covered include: Who uses AAC? How do I know if AAC is for me or a loved one? How do people use AAC systems? What questions should I ask my speech-language pathologist (SLP)?
Assistive Technology Law Center
300 Gateway Center
401 East State Street
Ithaca, New York 14850
The Assistive Technology Law Center is a public interest law firm providing information and advocacy assistance to expand coverage and funding for speech generating devices (SGDs). Its Web site, AACFundingHelp.com, includes extensive information and documentation about the most important funding sources for SGDs, including Medicare, state Medicaid programs, Tricare, private health insurance, the Department of Veterans Affairs, education programs, vocational rehabilitation programs, and telecommunications equipment distribution programs.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Center
Barkley Memorial Centers
University of Nebraska Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders
Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0738
This Web site provides a wide range of information and resources related to AAC and strategies to assist people with severe communication disabilities to participate more fully in their social roles.
Augmentative Communication Community Partnerships - Canada is a Canada-wide non-profit organization that supports people who have communication disabilities and who use augmentative and alternative communication. Projects have focused on prevention of sexual abuse, early literacy, safety issues, and access to the legal system.
Augmentative Communication Inc. (ACI) publishes resources that help keep professionals and individuals with complex communication needs up-to-date on important developments in augmentative and alternative communication. ACI is also a partner with the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Communication Enhancement (AAC-RERC).
Center for Excellence in Augmented Communication
University at Buffalo - State University of New York
Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences
122 Cary Hall
Buffalo, New York 14214
The CEAC Web site is for everyone interested in Augmentative Communication. Content areas include In the News, The Law and My Rights, Cutting Edge Technology, Creative Expressions, Practitioner & Family, Vision Resources, CEAC Research, and Western New York Resources. The site invites contributions from AAC users, caregivers, organizations, and companies. It posts news, links to information resources, reports about device problems (bug report), advertisements for products or services, etc.
Communication Matters (ISAAC UK)
c/o the ACE Centre
92 Windmill Road
Oxford, OX3 7DR
Communication Matters is a UK national charitable organization of members concerned with the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) needs of people with complex communication difficulties. Communication Matters is also known as ISAAC (UK), the United Kingdom chapter of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC).
DEAL Communication Centre
538 Dandenong Road
Caulfield, Victoria 3162
DEAL Communication Centre is an Australian non-governmental organization that provides services to people who are unable to talk, or unable to talk clearly enough to communicate. DEAL assesses each client's communication needs and abilities, and tries to find some means of communication. It provides training for clients, parents, therapists, caregivers, and teachers; loans communication aids so that people can practice their skills and make informed decisions about selecting equipment; and, when appropriate, it obtains equipment for clients through the Australian government-funded Electronic Communication Devices Scheme.
ISAAC (International Society of Augmentative and Alternative Communication)
49 The Donway West, Suite 308
Toronto, Ontario M3C 3M9
The International Society for AAC works to improve the life of every child and adult with speech difficulties. ISAAC has thousands of members in 50 countries with chapters in 14 countries. Its U.S. chapter is USSAAC.
The Muscular Dystrophy Association assists with the purchase of communication devices for children and adults with neuromuscular diseases. The device must be medically prescribed by the local MDA clinic physician. The maximum allowable assistance is established by MDA annually.
National Organization Caring for Kids
P.O. Box 1822
Tacoma, Washington 98401
The National Organization Caring for Kids (NOCK) helps parents of children with disabilities to fund assistive technology products after traditional funding sources have been exhausted. Its focus is on mobility and communication devices. Participants must be referred by one of NOCK's partners, which include Dynavox Systems, United Seating and Mobility, Care Medical, Olympic Pharmacy, and Sunrise Medical.
Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Communication Enhancement (AAC-RERC)
Duke University Medical Center, Division of Speech Pathology & Audiology
Durham, North Carolina 27770
AAC-RERC uses innovative communication technologies to benefit researchers, engineers, rehabilitation service providers, developers, and users of alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) technologies.
c/o Department of Speech-Language Pathology - Univerity of Toronto
160-500 University Avenue
Toronto, Ontario M5G 1V7
Speaking Differently is an organization for persons with disabilities who communicate using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) methods, their families, friends and those who work with them.
Speech Research Lab
A.I. duPont Hospital for Children
1600 Rockland Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19803
The Speech Research Laboratory focuses on developing new speech technology and adapting existing speech technology for people with speech and communication difficulties. Projects have included development of a speech synthesis system with a personalized voice, based on recordings of the user's own voice.
Speechville Express is a Web site for parents of children who have difficulty with speech, language, or communication, or are late talkers. Its resources on augmentative and alternative communication include a side-by-side comparison of augmentative communication devices at http://www.speechville.com/shop-augmentative-communication.html.
Talking Point is an informational Web site sponsored by I CAN, a UK charity supporting children with communication disabilities. It has sections on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCA).
Sponsored by six manufacturers, TAACC (pronounced Talk) conducts all-day workshops on the use of AAC devices for communication, environmental control, and computer access. The companies that sponsor TAACC are AMDi (Advanced Multimedia Devices, Inc.); Assistive Technology, Inc.; Prentke Romich Co.; Saltillo Corporation; Words+, Inc.; and ZYGO Industries, Inc.
United States Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (USSAAC)
P.O. Box 1195
Burlingame, California 94011
USSAAC provides information and support on issues, technology, tools and advancements within the world of AAC. It serves everyone within the AAC community, including AAC users, therapists, families, educators, and researchers.
Speech & Hearing Sciences
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington 98195
This Web site provides information on AAC intervention planning, selection of AAC vocabulary, and AAC features, including output features, access methods, selection set features, message composition, and physical features. It also includes an AAC glossary, links to AAC resources, and a publications list.
Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of
810 Vermont Ave NW
Washington, D.C. 20420
Telephone: 800-827-1000 toll free or 202-273-5400.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides funding for AAC devices for eligible veterans through the following programs:
- Veterans Health Administration: http://www1.va.gov/health/.
- Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Program / Independent Living Program: http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/vre/ilp.htm.
Voice for Living
Sponsored by Mayer-Johnson and Dynavox, this Web site provides information, resources, and a networking forum for individuals and families affected by significant speech, language and learning disabilities, and the professionals serving them.
YAACK - Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Connecting Young Kids
Augmentative and Alternative Communication Center
Barkley Memorial Centers
University of Nebraska Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders
Lincoln, Nebraska 68583-0738
This Web site covers issues related to AAC and young children. It provides easy-to-understand, practice, information and guidance for families, teachers, speech/language pathologists and anyone else who is involved with a child with special communication needs. Focus areas include choosing an AAC system and teaching communication skills with AAC.
Yahoo Augmentative/Alternative Communication Group
The Yahoo Augmentative/Alternative Communication Group is a place where speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, parents, and teachers can share ideas or post questions relating to augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Topics include assessment, equipment options, engineering the home or classroom environment, activity ideas, etc.
The articles and books listed in this section may be helpful to a person who is selecting a communicator or is in need of information on the potential uses and benefits of communicators. When available, a link is provided to a Web page on which the text of the publication can be viewed free of charge or to a Web page from which the publication can be purchased online. The views stated are those of each article's author(s) and do not reflect the opinions of ABLEDATA or the U.S. Department of Education.
Many of these publications are included in the library of rehabilitation literature maintained by the National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC). For each of these items, the publication's accession number in NARIC's REHABDATA literature database on disability and rehabilitation is included in the citation. The REHABDATA accession number also serves as a link to the corresponding record in the REHABDATA database. To inquire whether NARIC can supply a copy of an item in its collection, contact them at--
National Rehabilitation Information Center (NARIC)
8201 Corporate Drive, Suite 600
Landover Maryland 20785
Telephone: 800-346-2742 toll free or 301-459-5900.
The following articles discuss several different brands of communicators, and may be useful in selecting a product. The views stated are those of each article's author(s) and do not reflect the opinions of ABLEDATA or the U.S. Department of Education.
Kardos, Margaret, "Chatbox 40," ConnSENSE Bulletin, Volume 8, Number 3 (October 2006).
Web (view text): http://connsensebulletin.com/chatbox40revmk.html.
The author reviews the ChatBox 40 from Saltillo, finding it to be a good option as an entry-level voice output communication device for younger children.
Kardos, Margaret, "L*E*O: Language and ECU in One," ConnSENSE Bulletin, Volume 8, Number 3 (October 2006).
Web (view text): http://connsensebulletin.com/Leoreviewmk.html.
The author reviews L*E*O, a direct selection and scanning communicator and environmental control unit from Tobii Assistive Technology Inc., and finds that the device is a good low-cost communication option for people with a wide range of communication skill levels.
Rackensperger, Tracy, "The Pathfinder with Unity 128," ConnSENSE Bulletin, June 2005.
Web (view text): http://www.connsensebulletin.com/tracyreview.html.
The author reviews the Pathfinder speech generating device from Prentke Romich Company, as used with Unity 128 vocabulary software, which assigns meanings to graphical icons and stores them. She finds that the device fits her needs as a researcher, writer, and presenter.
Younkerman, Tom, "ConnSENSE Review: DynaVox Series 4 DV4," ConnSENSE Bulletin, Volume 7, Number 3 (October 2005).
Web (view text): http://www.connsensebulletin.com/revdv4.html.
The author, who has cerebral palsy, concludes this review of DynaVox Series 4 (DV4) from Dynavox Systems by saying: "Overall I find the DynaVox System 4 to be a good AAC device that has the flexibility I need to meet my communication needs."
Zabala, Joy Smiley, "The Tango! Not Just Another Pretty Face," ConnSENSE Bulletin, Volume 8, Number 3 (November 2006).
Web (view text): http://www.connsensebulletin.com/joytango.html.
This article reviews the Tango! communication aid from Blink-Twice. The author finds many positive features and a few challenges, and concludes, "the Tango! is a fresh face on the scene that has a lot going for it."
Bailey, Rita L., Julie B. Stoner, Howard P. Parette, Jr., and Maureen E. Angell, "AAC Team Perceptions: Augmentative and Alternative Communication Device Use," Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 41, Number 2 (June 2006) pp. 139-154.
REHABDATA accession number: J50849.
This study examines the use of AAC devices by middle and high school students, based on interviews with seven AAC team members (six special education teachers and one speech-language pathologist). AAC was seen to have a positive effect on interactions between students with disabilities and their non-disabled peers, while team collaboration was perceived to be the most important factor in successful AAC use.
Ball, Laura J., David R. Beukelman, and Gary L. Pattee, "Acceptance of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Technology by Persons with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 20, Number 2 (June 2004), pp. 113-122.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713950249~db=all~order=page.
REHABDATA accession number: J48050.
This study examined utilization of AAC devices by 50 individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis over the course of 4 years. Results indicate that 96% of participants accepted AAC technology either immediately or after some delay, and none of the participants ceased use of their devices.
Beck, Ann R., Stacey Bock, James R. Thompson, and Kullaya Kosuwan, "Influence of Communicative Competence and Augmentative and Alternative Communication Technique on Children's Attitudes Toward a Peer Who Uses AAC," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 18, Number 4 (December 2002), pp. 217-227.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a714043410~db=all~order=page.
REHABDATA accession number: J50849.
This study examines factors affecting children's attitudes towards a peer using an AAC device. Results indicate that participants' grade level, device type used, and the AAC user's communicative competence had no significant effect on attitudes. The only significant factor was gender, as girls reported a more positive attitude towards a child using AAC.
Beck, Ann R., Stacey Bock, James R. Thompson, Linda Bowman, and Stacey Robbins, "Is Awesome Really Awesome? How the Inclusion of Informal Terms on an AAC Device Influences Children's Attitudes Toward Peers Who Use AAC," Research in Developmental Disabilities, Volume 27, Number 1 (January/February 2006), pp. 56-69.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=MImg&_imagekey=B6VDN-4G9Y4N5-1-1&_cdi=5987&_user=10&_orig=browse&_coverDate=02/28/2006&_sk=999729998&view=c&wchp=dGLzVlz-zSkWW&md5=475ae860d1048d6b4542200f80481f89&ie=/sdarticle.pdf.
This study examines whether children's reactions to peers who use an AAC device are affected by the addition of informal language. A total of 84 children in grades 4 or 5 viewed video of a child using the AlphaTalker from Prentke Romich with formal English only or with both formal and informal language. Results indicate that the introduction of informal terms had no effect on children's self-reported attitudes.
Beukelman, David R., Susan Fager, Laura Ball, and Aimee Dietz, "AAC for Adults with Acquired Neurological Conditions: A Review," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 23, Number 3 (September 2007), pp. 230-242.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a781352296~db=all~jumptype=rss.
REHABDATA accession number: J53104.
This article reviews the state of the science of AAC for adults with communication disorders resulting from amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), traumatic brain injury (TBI), brainstem impairment, severe and chronic aphasia or apraxia of speech, primary progressive aphasia (PPA), and dementia. Topics include recent technological advances, AAC acceptance and utilization, limitations of AAC, and future needs.
Beukelman, David R., and Laura J. Ball, "Improving AAC Use for Persons with Acquired Neurogenic Disorders: Understanding Human Engineering Factors," Assistive Technology, Volume 14, Number 1 (Summer 2002), pp. 33-44.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.resna.org/ProfResources/Publications/ATJournal/Volume14/Issue1/BulbarALS.php.
REHABDATA accession number: J48246.
This article examines factors that influence the use of AAC devices by adults with neurogenic conditions that commonly result in communication disabilities. Factors discussed include the natural course of the neurogenic condition, use of multiple modes of communication, changing technological capabilities, communication patterns, modified social roles, communication in diverse environments, AAC user attitudes, and instructional constraints.
Brooks, Barbara, and Debbie Whitby-Norman, "Come Talk With Me," Closing the Gap, Volume 24, Number 1 (April/May 2005), pp. 1, 23-24.
The authors describe the use of AAC devices by elementary and secondary school students with a variety of physical, cognitive, and sensory disabilities.
Cosbey, Joanna Evans, and Susan Johnston, "Using a Single-Switch Voice Output Communication Aid to Increase Social Access for Children With Severe Disabilities in Inclusive Classrooms," Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, Volume 31, Number 2 (Summer 2006), pp. 144-156.
REHABDATA accession number: J51151.
This study examines the effects of AAC use on the communication skills of children with severe multiple disabilities and their acceptance by non-disabled peers.
Courtney, Susan Wells, "Speech Solutions," The Motivator, (Fall 2003), pp. 19-22.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.msassociation.org/publications/fall03/feature.htm.
This article discusses no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech solutions for people with multiple sclerosis who are experiencing difficulties in speaking. Speech generating devices are among the high tech solutions discussed.
Dowden, Patricia, "Understanding Features of Communication Devices for AAC Recommendations and Funding," Washington Assistive Technology Alliance (WATA) Bulletin, Summer 2001.
Web (view text): http://wata.org/pubs/bulletins/summer2001.htm.
The author, a speech pathologist, provides some suggestions on how families, clinicians, and AAC users themselves can become educated about the many available options for AAC devices.
Doyle, Molly, and Barbara Phillips, "Trends in Augmentative and Alternative Communication Use by Individuals with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 17, Number 3 (September 2001), pp. 167-178.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a714043381~db=all~order=page.
This paper examines patterns in the use of AAC by people with ALS. The authors find that women prefer speech generating devices twice as often as men, while men prefer high-technology writing systems three times as often as women, and prefer integrated communication systems twice as often. Men and women show comparable likelihood of rejecting AAC altogether.
Dudek, Karen, Ann R. Beck, and James R. Thompson, "The Influence of AAC Device Type, Dynamic vs. Static Screen, on Peer Attitudes," Journal of Special Education Technology, Volume 21, Number 1 (Winter 2006), pp. 17-24.
REHABDATA accession number: J51191.
This study examines whether children's attitudes towards peers who use AAC are influenced by whether the device has a static screen or dynamic screen. Participants were shown videos of peers using a DeltaTalker from Prentke Romich (static screen) or a DynaVox 3100 from Dynavox Systems (dynamic screen). The results did not indicate bias toward children who used one device type or the other, although gender was found to influence device acceptance.
Fried-Oken, Melanie, and Hank A. Bersani Jr., (editors), Speaking Up and Spelling It Out: Personal Essays on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Baltimore: Brookes Publishing, 2000, 288 pages.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.amazon.com/Speaking-Spelling-Out-Augmentative-Communication/dp/1557664471.
REHABDATA accession number: R08050.
This book collects personal essays, poems, and interviews of 28 diverse individuals who use AAC, from teens to senior citizens, who give first-person accounts of how living with AAC has affected them.
Grassmann, Laura, "Identity and Augmentative and Alternative Communication," Journal of Special Education Technology, Volume 17, Number 3 (Summer 2002), pp. 47-50.
Web (view text): http://jset.unlv.edu/17.3/asseds/ashton.html.
This article discusses how the development of children's identities can be affected by the use of AAC. The author contends that children must be at the center of the AT acquisition process, and should be made to feel as comfortable as possible when using communication devices during interactions in a variety of settings.
Higdon, Carolyn Wiles, and Lawrence W. Higdon, "A Missing Link: People, Practice, and Some Precarious Research," Topics in Language Disorders, Volume 24, Number 1 (January/March 2004), pp. 5-17.
This article discusses ways to bridge the gap between researchers' and clinicians' views regarding clients' AAC needs.
Higginbotham, D. Jeffery, Howard Shane, Susanne Russell, and Kevin Caves, "Access to AAC: Present, Past, and Future," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 23, Number 3 (September 2007), pp. 243-257.
Web (view text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content?content=10.1080/07434610701571058.
REHABDATA accession number: J53105.
The authors outline the historical development of AAC, including AAC technology and the human factors involved in its successful use.
Hill, Katya, "AAC Assessment: Applying Evidence-Based Practice," Closing the Gap, Volume 22, Number 4 (October/November 2003), pp. 1, 12-15.
This article discusses research-based methods for educators to use in selecting an AAC system and assessing outcomes.
Hoge, Debra Reichert, and Cheryl A. Newsome, The Source for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Moline, Illinois: LinguiSystems, [copyright 2002], 177 pages.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.linguisystems.com/itemdetail.php?id=397.
The Source is a comprehensive resource book on AAC for speech and language therapists, covering assessment and intervention issues for children and adults in schools, private practice, hospitals, and home health care.
Hourcade, Jack, Tami Everhart Pilotte, Elizabeth West, and Phil Parette, "A History of Augmentative and Alternative Communication for Individuals with Severe and Profound Disabilities," Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, Volume 19, Number 4 (Winter 2004), pp. 235-244.
Web (view text): http://foa.sagepub.com/cgi/reprint/19/4/235.
The authors present an overview of the evolution of AAC services over the past half century. They find that AAC has been an important factor in the development of support services for people with disabilities, especially those with severe and profound disabilities.
Hunt-Berb, Mary, and Christine Toomey, "A 15-Year Retrospective Study of the Outcomes of Students With Severe Speech and Physical Impairments Who Use AAC," Proceedings of the RESNA 26th International Annual Conference, Arlington, Virginia: Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, 2003.
Web (to purchase text): http://resna.org/ProfResources/Publications/Proceedings/2003/Papers/AAC/Hunt-Berg_AAC.php.
This retrospective study examines AAC and assistive technology use patterns and long-term outcomes for former students at a San Francisco-area school for children with severe speech and physical impairments.
Jaehnert, Kari, "Opening the Door to Communication: Selecting an AAC Device," Family Center on Technology and Disability (FCTD) Newsletter, March 2002.
Web (view text): http://www.fctd.info/resources/newsletters/displayNewsletter.php?newsletterID=42; or http://www.ucp.org/ucp_channeldoc.cfm/1/14/86/86-86/3916.
This article discusses the basics of AAC device selection for children with communication disabilities. A revised version is available on the United Cerebral Palsy Association web site under the title "Selecting an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Device for Your Child."
Jones, Wylanta, Pamela Mathy, Tamiko Azuma, and Julie Liss, "The Effect of Aging and Synthetic Topic Cues on the Intelligibility of Dysarthric Speech," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 20, Number 1 (March 2004), pp. 22-29.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a713950240~db=all~order=page.
This study examines the impact of content cues produced by an AAC device on the intelligibility of dysarthric speech to younger and older listeners. Participants were asked to transcribe recorded speech from a 75-year-old male with severe dysarthria and ALS. Results indicate that both younger and older listeners performed better when speech was accompanied by synthetic topic cues.
Light, Janice, and Kathryn Drager, "AAC Technologies for Young Children with Complex Communication Needs: State of the Science and Future Directions," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 23, Number 3 (September 2007), pp. 203-216.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a781355802~db=all.
In this article, the authors review the research related to AAC technologies for young children with complex communication needs, and present recommendations for future research directions. Recommendations include focusing on increasing the appeal of AAC devices, expanding their functionality, and reducing their learning demands.
Lilienfeld, Margaret, and Erna Alant, "Attitudes of Children Toward an Unfamiliar Peer Using an AAC Device With and Without Voice Output," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 18, Number 2 (June 2002), pp. 91-101.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a714043399~db=all~order=page.
REHABDATA accession number: J44095.
This study examines children's attitudes toward a fellow student with cerebral palsy and no functional speech who used a DeltaTalker operated with a head pointer. One hundred and fifteen children, aged eleven to thirteen years, were shown a videotape of the student using the DeltaTalker. Results from a questionnaire indicated that the children's attitudes were more positive when the participant communicated with voice output. Female students had more positive attitudes than male students.
Lund, Shelley K., and Janice Light, "Long-Term Outcomes for Individuals Who Use Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Part 1 - What is a 'Good Outcome'?" Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 22, Number 4 (December 2006), pp. 284-299.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a762351431~db=all~order=page.
The authors examine long-term outcomes for seven young men with cerebral palsy, between 19 and 23 years of age, who had used AAC systems for at least 15 years. The author finds that outcomes varied by individual and by measure used, raising issues about the challenges of outcomes research.
McAfoose, Linnea R., "Using AAC Device Features to Enhance Teenager's Quality of Life," Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits, Volume 1, Number 1 (Fall 2004), pp. 33-41.
Web (view text): http://www.atia.org/files/public/atobv1n1articleFIVE.pdf.
This article describes the use of a DynaVox 3100 speech generating device by a 17-year-old honors student with athetoid cerebral palsy, whose quality of life was enhanced as she learned to communicate more effectively and efficiently.
McNaughton, David, Janice Light, and Linda Groszyk, "'Don't Give Up': Employment Experiences of Individuals with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Who Use Augmentative and Alternative Communication," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 17, Number 3 (September 2001), pp. 179-195.
REHABDATA accession number: J42842.
This focus group study examines the employment experiences of five individuals with ALS who use AAC devices.
McNaughton, David, Janice Light, and Kara B. Arnold, "'Getting Your Wheel in the Door': Successful Full-Time Employment Experiences of Individuals with Cerebral Palsy Who Use Augmentative and Alternative Communication," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 18, Number 2 (June 2002), pp. 59-76.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a714043397~db=all~order=page.
REHABDATA accession number: J44093.
This focus group study examines the experiences of eight individuals with cerebral palsy who use AAC while employed in a full-time job. Six major themes emerged from the discussion: (1) descriptions of employment activities; (2) benefits of employment and reasons for being employed; (3) negative impacts resulting from employment; (4) barriers to employment; (5) supports required for employment; and (6) recommendations for improving employment outcomes or individuals who with cerebral palsy who use AAC.
McNaughton, David, and Diane Nelson Bryen, "AAC Technologies to Enhance Participation and Access to Meaningful Societal Roles for Adolescents and Adults with Developmental Disabilities Who Require AAC," Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 23, Number 3 (September 2007) pp. 217-229.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.informaworld.com/smpp/content~content=a781353443~db=all.
This article reviews published research on the use of AAC to support societal participation by adolescents and adults with developmental disabilities, with a focus on post-secondary education and training, the workplace, and community living and social interaction.
"Medicaid and Assistive Technology: A Fresh Look at Medicaid as an AT Funding Source," AT Advocate, Volume 9, Issue 2 (Winter 2005), pp. 302-312.
Web (view text): http://www.nls.org/av/spring05.htm (HTML) or http://www.nls.org/av/spring05.pdf (.pdf).
This article provides a general overview of funding for assistive technology under Medicaid for children and adults.
"Medicaid, Assistive Technology, and the Courts: An Updated Summary of AT-Related Federal and State Court Decisions," AT Advocate, Volume 11, Issue 1 (Winter 2006-2007), pp. 370-380.
Web (view text): http://www.nls.org/av/winter06-07.htm (HTML) or http://www.nls.org/av/winter06-07.pdf (.pdf).
This article summarizes important court decisions related to Medicaid funding of AT since the mid-1980s. It includes a section on augmentative communication devices.
Mintun, Bonnie, "The Central Role of Expectations in Communication and Literacy Success: A Parent Perspective," Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits, Volume 2, Number 1 (Fall 2005), pp. 31-44.
Web (view text): http://atia.i4a.com/files/public/atobv2n1articleFOUR.pdf.
This is a mother's first-person account of the process of choosing AAC technology for a 21-year-old daughter with severe cognitive, visual, and orthopedic disabilities. Obstacles included the low expectations of prescribing professionals about her daughter's ability to benefit from the AAC due to the severity of her disabilities.
Murphy, Patricia M., "Assistive Technology as an Evolving Resource for a Successful Employment Experience," Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits, Volume 2, Number 1 (Fall 2005), pp. 55-70.
Web (view text): http://www.atia.org/files/public/atobv2n1articleSIX.pdf.
This paper describes the role of an AAC device in the employment experience of a young man with cerebral palsy who could not walk, use his hands, or speak with his own voice. The young man worked as an inventory processor at the warehouse of a bookseller, and used a DynaVox 3100 from DynaVox Systems.
Murphy, Patti, "The Five Ws of Adopting AAC in Adulthood," Closing the Gap, Volume 25, Number 3 (August/September 2006), pp. 1, 11-12.
This article discusses the process of adopting AAC as an adult in terms of "the five Ws": (1) why, (2) when, (3) what, (4) where, and (5) who. Examples of adults who have made the transition to successful AAC use include a retired professor who lost his voice after a stroke, who uses a keyboard communicator (the DynaVox MT4), which he describes as his way out of virtual isolation; and a man with declining intelligible speech due to ALS who uses the DynaWrite, another keyboard communicator from Dynavox, Inc.
Ogletree, Billy T., and Thomas Oren, How to Use Augmentative and Alternative Communication, Austin, Texas: Pro-Ed, 2006, 45 pages.
Web (to purchase text): http://www.proedinc.com/customer/productView.aspx?ID=3599.
This manual discusses AAC applications for children and adults with autism spectrum disorders, and offers recommended practices to help guide parents and practitioners in the establishment and implementation of AAC.
Quintero, Alyssa, "Assistive Technology: A.T. Funding Challenge," Quest, Volume 14, Number 1 (January/February 2007), pp. 46-53.
Web (view text): http://www.mdaquest-digital.com/mdaquest/20070102.
This article identifies possible funding sources for assistive technology (AT), including AAC devices. As alternatives to Medicare and other insurance, it points to partial funding for prescribed AAC through the Muscular Dystrophy Association; equipment loans through State Tech Act projects; and ATMatch.com, a national marketplace that matches AT donors and sellers with potential consumers.
Rackensperger, Tracy, Michael Williams, Carole Krezman, and David McNaughton, "The Learning Experiences of AAC Users: Results of an Internet-Based Focus Group Discussion," Proceedings of the RESNA 25th International Conference, Volume 22, Number 1 (June/July 2002), pp. 72-74.
REHABDATA accession number: O14478.
In this focus group study, seven AAC users discuss their experiences selecting and learning to use AAC. Topics include (1) issues in the selection of an AAC device, (2) knowledge needed to make competent use of an AAC system, (3) activities used to gain proficiency in the use of an AAC system, and (4) indicators of progress/success in learning to make use of an AAC device.
Scarlett, Yolonda, "Oh Yes You Can: How Creativity and Assistive Technology Helped My Child to Do Class Reports," See/Hear, Volume 10, Number 2 (Spring 2005).
Web (view text): http://www.tsbvi.edu/Outreach/seehear/spring05/yes.htm.
This is a mother's account of how her son, a non-verbal second grader who is not able to write or type, utilizes a Big Mack single message communicator and a Sequencer to participate in activities such as oral reports, ABC's, counting, naming classmates, conversations, and songs.
Schlosser, Ralf W., "Roles of Speech Output in Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Narrative Review" Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), Volume 19, Number 1 (March 2002), pp. 5-27.
Web (view text): http://www.slpa.neu.edu/people/schlosser/8_Schlosser2003.pdf.
REHABDATA accession number: J47014.
This article reviews research related to the effect of the use of speech output by children with communication disabilities on how they are viewed by peers.
Sigafoos, Jeff, Mark O'Reilly, Jennifer B. Ganz, Giulio E. Lancioni, and Ralf W. Schlosser, "Supporting Self-Determination in AAC Interventions by Assessing Preference for Communication Devices," Technology and Disability, Volume 17, Number 3 (2005), pp. 143-153.
REHABDATA accession number: J49879.
This paper outlines a methodology for enabling students with severe developmental disabilities to indicate a specific preference for AAC devices. The approach allows for the selection of AAC based on an analysis of student characteristics and environmental factors. The authors describe applications of the method involving two students.
Sigafoos, J., M.F. O'Reilly, S. Seely-York, J. Weru, S.H. Son, V.A. Green, and G.E. Lancioni, "Transferring AAC Intervention to the Home," Disability and Rehabilitation, Volume 26, Number 21 (November 2004), pp. 1330-1334.
REHABDATA accession number: J48461.
Study examining the transfer to the home setting of AAC skills acquired by 12-year-old boy with autism during a clinical trial. The boy was trained to use the TalkTrac Wearable Communicator from AbleNet. Results indicate that the boy was able to continue learning to use the device in his home after the initial clinical trials with support from his parent and the intervention team.
Simoniello, Susan, and Marianne Kennedy, "AAC Assessment and Implementation Through the Eyes of a Special Educator: Part One of a Two-Part Series," Closing the Gap, Volume 24, Number 2 (June/July 2005), pp. 1, 16.
This article describes the AAC assessment process for a young girl with neurological disabilities. The girl was prescribed the DynaVox MT4 voice output communicator from DynaVox Systems, and was able to learn to use the device efficiently after only ten minutes of direct instruction.
Simoniello, Susan, and Marianne Kennedy, "AAC Assessment and Implementation Through the Eyes of a Special Educator: Part Two of a Two-Part Series," Closing the Gap, Volume 24, Number 3 (August/September 2005), pp. 1, 6, 36.
This article, the second of two, focuses on challenges faced in the AAC implementation process, such as staff attitudes, knowledge, and skills. The authors offer guidelines to help others have a successful AAC experience. For example, they found that it is crucial to provide evidence and data to support the decision to use AAC equipment, and that team members should be educated early and often on the use of the equipment. It is important to meet early and to troubleshoot on a regular basis, and it is unrealistic to expect to be able to implement the device into all of the child's activities immediately.
"Voice Output Communication Aids," Talking Point, June 19, 2006.
Web (view text): http://www.ican.org.uk/TalkingPoint/Parent Point/Communication Disability/AAC/Voice Output Communication Aids.aspx.
This Web article outlines the features of voice output communication aids (VOCAs) for children with communication disabilities.
Williams, Stephanie and Patti Murphy, "Letter-Based AAC Systems: Rate Enhancement Strategies for Literate Adults," Closing the Gap, Volume 22, Number 1 (April/May 2003), pp. 21-22.
This article discusses methods to reduce the cognitive and physical demands on individuals using letter-based communication devices, including low-tech alphabet boards and high tech keyboard communicators. Most of these strategies are used to reduce the number of keystrokes required to effectively express ideas. They include adaptive dictionaries, word prediction, macros, automatic spacing and capitalization, modified keyboard layouts, abbreviation expansion, and flexible abbreviation programs.
Wood, Tara, "Speaking for Yourself: AAC Devices Get Faster, Easier, More Flexible," Quest, Volume 11, Number 3 (May/June 2004).
Web (view text): http://www.mdausa.org/publications/Quest/q113access.html.
This article discusses advances in AAC devices, with a focus on communicators aimed at literate adults. Products discussed include keyboard communicators, scanning communicators, and communicator with environmental control and computer input capability. The author includes advice on how consumers can choose the proper device to fit their individual needs.