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AAC and the iPad®

AAC and the iPad®
Stephanie Meehan, MA, CCC-SLP
June 4, 2015
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This text-based course is a transcript of the webinar, AAC and the iPad®, presented by Stephanie Meehan, MA, CCC-SLP.

Overview and Objectives

>> Stephanie Meehan:  I am excited to talk about Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and the iPad®.  I want to lay some foundation for AAC and AAC assessment.  I cannot talk about any specific AAC system, technique or strategy without talking about AAC assessment, especially with the challenges that practitioners are facing each day around AAC and the iPad.  I will discuss the concept of feature matching, which is critical to choosing a system for an individual.  I am going to identify methods to narrow down the choices and evaluate iPad applications, because there are so many of them.  That can be very overwhelming for anyone, even someone who is well-versed in AAC.  I am also going to review some language facilitation strategies that can be used with anyone in any environment with any partners and any AAC system that they may be using, from very low tech to our highest tech devices.  Then I will spend some time talking about core vocabulary, because AAC, after all, is a language system that is supplemental to or in place of our natural speech, and we all have to make decisions about what language we provide in that language system.  Core vocabulary is a nice way to approach that and make those decisions.  

Our learning objectives are that after this course, you will be able to list two to three resources to identify iPad apps for AAC use.  You will be able to define feature matching and describe its purpose, and describe the assessment process to identify the AAC system for any user.  You will be able to define what core vocabulary is, why it is important and how to implement it in intervention, as well as describe similarities and differences between four to five comprehensive iPad applications for AAC. 

AAC Myths

Let’s start with some AAC myths.  The first one is that AAC impedes speech and language development.  I hear this all the time from parents, family members, caregivers, and teachers who are worried about the person that they love or have brought to the assessment. They are concerned that the person may be talking very little or not talking at all.  They worry that if we implement this alternative or augmentative system, this piece of technology or picture communication book, their child or loved one will not talk. 

It has been well established that that is absolutely untrue.  If anything, it could help their speech and language development.  One of the ways that I like to explain it is that when young children are crawling and learning to walk, if they see a preferred item or person across the room, they might crawl instead of walk because it is faster and more efficient for them.  Once our natural speech, which will always be more effective and efficient for us to use, is more effective and efficient, we will drop whatever other system we have been using.  If natural speech is something that develops over time, then the AAC system will be put aside and will not be used anymore.  They will not need to.  This does not mean that we do not have an obligation to provide that individual with a way to communicate and assert some independence in their environment. 

Myth #2: Children and adults need to match or identify pictures to develop AAC skills.  This is also something that I hear from professionals in the environment.  We are working on establishing matching skills or labeling skills or categorizing skills.  There is some set of skills that people want their clients to master before they think they are ready to use an AAC system, specifically a high tech system that has a lot of vocabulary and may use pictures or symbols that are less iconic.  This is untrue.  We could spend a lot of time working with a child or an adult to get them to match pictures, label pictures, or categorize things, and what we are doing is wasting time rather than getting a system in place that helps to develop language skills, which is obviously our goal. 


stephanie meehan

Stephanie Meehan, MA, CCC-SLP

Clinical Assistant Professor

Stephanie Meehan is currently a doctoral candidate and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Kansas. Her primary research interests include augmentative and alternative communication and school based services. Presently, Stephanie is completing her dissertation. She has completed course work in quantitative and qualitative statistical methods, special education law, disability policy, grant writing, and atypical development. Stephanie facilitates the PACCE (Promoting Access to Communication, Community and Education) team in the Schiefelbusch Speech Language Hearing Clinic.



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