by Dennis Larned, AAC-RERC Writers Brigade Participant
Matching people with complex communication needs (CCN) with appropriate augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices just got easier. AAC TechConnect, which receives support for some specific projects from the AAC-RERC, is developing innovative free and paid resources to assist speech-language pathologists during AAC evaluations.
AAC TechConnect began in 2005 and is directed by Debby McBride, CCC-SLP, a speech-language pathologist with 26 years in the field as a clinician and manufacturer’s representative. The website contains a wide range of materials beginning with: up-to-date listings for workshops, a chart of AAC solutions for under $1500, contact information for major AAC manufacturers and product information on nearly 100 speech-generating devices. It also features the Device Assistant, a searchable database that allows viewers to compare almost 100 devices side-by-side.
AAC TechConnect has also created ACES high and low tech evaluation toolkits; these are available so clinicians have ready-made resources to perform assessments. The Low-to-Lite Tech Evaluation Toolkit includes: a single message voice output device with levels, inexpensive communication boards, books and displays suitable for almost any modality, keyguards, several switches with accessories, symbol sets, Go Talk Bundle, Go Talk Overlay software with the stand and much more. Its companion, the ACES High-Tech Evaluation Toolkit, simulates most speech-generating devices. This toolkit comes with: a Microsoft Windows 7 based convertible tabletPC, instructions, Tobii Communicator software with sample pages, demonstration software from other AAC manufacturers, optional WordPower/Picture WordPower add-on software and more. They have also developed the ACES Module, which provides forms and templates to assist in AAC evaluations including the new mobile technology (i.e. apps, iPads, etc.)
McBride and AAC TechConnect’s efforts do not stop there. The website has been updated and expanded. It now features a page with a variety of free tools and resources. The “Forms & Templates” section provides a place where people can download and post templates and forms to use during evaluations. The “What’s New” section features manufacturers’ new AAC devices within the last year. It also lists new communication Apps for mobile technology like an iPhone and iPad every few months. The “Tools & Resources” pages provides a list of evaluations tools available from a number of resources. The “AAC Devices and Apps” section contains a list of device manufacturers’ and products, including communication Apps. And, TechConnect has recently added an “Apps Assistant” to the website, similar to the Device Assistant, that allows people to search and compare Apps according to their features. In addition to all this, the organization provides workshops regarding AAC evaluations at nearly any location upon request. To learn more about the services and products at AAC TechConnect, please go to http://www.aactechconnect.com.