What is an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Evaluation?
An evaluation means reviewing all the ways a person currently communicates, and providing ideas for enhancing communication. AAC evaluations must be done by a licensed, certified speech-language pathologist. Depending on the consumer, a lot of the information may come from friends, family members, or staff. Other times, the assessor may use activities, apps, observations, or formal tests to learn about the person’s communication strengths and challenges. Some free AAC assessment tools are available at:
Services may involve:
- Assessments (evaluation of needs, feature matching and possibly arranging for and implementing device trials)
- Arrange for acquisition/purchase of AAC device (insurance reports must be written by an SLP)
- Device customization
- Training “end-user”
- Training communication partners
- Coordinating use of devices with other services/therapies
- Assuring maintenance of device
- Arranging for repair/replacement (purchase the warranty, list AAC in the IFSP/IEP/ISP!)
- Evaluating effectiveness of implementation
(Keep in mind that not all AAC solutions are high tech!)
AAC Assessment App
There is an app that can help you assess the symbolic skills of the person with whom you are working. It’s called the AAC Eval Genie and can be found in the app store:
With any assessment tool, keep in mind that you are seeing a snapshot of that individual’s abilities. Unless you have an ongoing relationship, don’t assume that they can’t do something just because they didn’t do it for you on that particular day!
Many school districts in Pennsylvania use an assessment tool called The SETT Framework. Joy Zabala developed the SETT Framework to guide team decision making for selecting AAC/AT. SETT stands for student, environment, Tasks, and Tools. You can modify this framework to fit the population you work with. Materials can be found on Joy’s website:
Having trouble finding a speech therapist to do the evaluation?
Check out the ProFind list on ASHA’s website: ASHA ProFind list of SLPs with AAC experience
In order to ensure that the device being recommended will be a good fit, there should be a trial period. If you are considering having the communication device paid through insurance, you will need to have a trial period that includes data and anecdotes from family, teachers, therapists, etc. that show how successful the trial period was. Resources for borrowing and trialing equipment can be found on our website:
TechOWL stands for Technology for Our Whole Lives. It’s not just about AAC.
Do you live in another state? Find information about state AT Act programs and AT Lending Libraries at the AT# Center:
Successful implementation of any new communication system is not simply the responsibility of the user. All those around that individual must see how their behavior and expectations impact their success. Communication Partners training can help the entire team “set the stage” for communication. Strategies may include providing choices within daily routines, not anticipating every want and need, and modeling communication with the user on their device.
- Use the AAC device together
- Have a conversation
- Respond to your partner
- Explore and don’t worry about being perfect!
Check out modeling resources here on the AAC Community website!
The speech-language pathologist performing the evaluation should be able to help you consider ways to pay for a communication device, and it will vary by individual. The format and style of the evaluative report may vary depending on the requirements of funding source (i.e., school-based reports will look different than medical-based reports). Look for further resources and supports on our funding page!
Examples of funding sources include:
- Local Education Agencies (LEA), School District or Intermediate Units (also, as about school-based Medical Assistance)
- Medical-based insurance: private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid/Medical Assistance (review the policy coverage for “Durable Medical Equipment)
- Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation provides alternative financing opportunities.
- Office of Vocational Rehabilitation (for individuals who need a way to communicate at work)
- Community and religious organizations
- Fundraising and Crowdfunding websites