“How do you know that’s the device we should try?”
There are so many things to consider when conducting an AAC evaluation. And I don’t have a set protocol that I follow when evaluating a student for an AAC device. Sometimes I walk into a classroom, observe a student during a lesson, and go back to their SLP and say, “what do you think about trying xyz?” Other times, a team member identifies that a student needs an AAC system, I observe the student, and we meet to discuss different options. In other instances I may try a variety of devices with the student to get a feel for how they communicate on different systems. There are so many other scenarios, but I think you get the point! But, no matter the scenario, when I make a recommendation, I am often asked, “How do you know that’s the device we should try?”
When I first stated doing AAC evaluations, I had a difficult time conveying to people that in all of the scenarios there are myriad considerations that are running through my mind. I think it especially bothered people when I asked if we could try a particular AAC system after I had only briefly observed a student. Saying “I just know” was not a sufficient answer or a way to get people on board! So I sat down one night to try to make a mind map of everything I consider when doing an AAC evaluation and here is the result!
I don’t necessarily need to go through every bubble on the map. Sometimes it feels like I’m thinking about many of these factors all at once, other times it feels like I actively go through different sections to get a better feel for the student. The end result is always the same: I’m trying to figure out how to provide students with access to a language-based AAC system, a system they can grow INTO not out of. The map is a tool that helps me figure out a starting place whether that’s how the student will access this system, how we can motivate the student to use the system, how we can move beyond requesting, etc. And now when people ask, “how do you know that’s the device we should try?” I pull out the map and show them all the different factors I (or the team) considered and how they are going to help us provide this student with an AAC system that works!
Stay tuned for more on specific branches of the map and how we talk about them to drive our team discussion when selecting an AAC device.
*When I look at expressive language, I often refer to the Communication Matrix by Charity Rowland. I like being able to clearly define how students communicate in different ways (behavior, unconventional, conventional, language, etc.) and for different functions. For this reason, I included the language levels and functions from the Communication Matrix on my mind map.
Rowland, C. (2009). Communication Matrix. Retrieved [Jan 15, 2015] from www.communicationmatrix.org