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Friday, August 16, 2013

AAC Assessment - When we say, "Help! I don't have enough equipment."

One problem that school based SLPs have when it comes to aac assessment is a lack of equipment.  A good aac assessment tries a variety of options with a student, with different symbol sets, symbol sizes, array complexities, and other software features.  Organization of vocabulary is one of the biggest features to consider, overriding almost everything else.  There are few assessment centers that offer a full range of assistive equipment to try.  But there are also few districts that can provide SLPs with such a range.  So, how do we make good choices based on effective assessment? Recently we have been hit with an iDevice explosion.  Many districts are even by-passing assessments and offering kids and their parents an iPad with aac app as soon as the words, “AAC evaluation,” pass their (or their advocate’s) lips.  

Many SLPs fear this is subverting the process and may not provide the students with the system that really meets their needs. The iPad revolution has, however, provided us with a tool that we can use effectively - and relatively cheaply - to help us in the assessment process.  There are many many aac apps available in the iTunes store.  However, way too many of them represent nothing more than 1 more choice board, in my opinion.  

There are few robust aac apps that offer well organized vocabulary sets, a full range of symbols to use, flexibility in array size and complexity, and layers of navigation that are systematically well organized.  Among them, I believe, are Prooquo2Go (particularly in its version 2 and beyond updates), Sono Flex, LAMP Words for Life, and Touch Chat (various versions).  Each has its pros and cons, and I won’t make a plug for any of them here.  Sono Flex is the least expensive of them, at about $100. For a little less, I have purchased Go Talk Now (about $80.) and taken advantage of its many features to create a large range of assessment activities.  I use these in conjunction with activities from other apps and, of course, paper-based systems that range from a small-choice array through the various display options of the PODD and Pixon books and boards. (more on these later).   I can create pages with 1, 4, 9, 26, or 25 buttons per page, link them in any navigation pattern I wish, use symbols from the app’s library (which includes some realistic photo-like symbols as well as standard symbol libraries), combine more than 1 symbol on a button, resize the images and text, import photos, videos, and audio tracks, and more.  

I have created a master home page that links me to different options of linked page sets.  Now, within an assessment session, I can move almost seamlessly from a 4 core word display to 25.  I can change button and background colors and add audio information for kids with cortical vision impairments.  I can choose between recorded voice and synthesized speech - in multiple languages.  I have made multiple activity based pages with core words in stable locations for activities that are preferred by many of the kids I see, in sizes from 4 to 25 buttons per page, and can see how far I “push the envelop” within the scope of a session. I hope that’s give you something to think about - and a project to keep you busy.  

For a more complete explanation with screen shots and app descriptions, I have my presentation Lightening the AAC Tool Kit Load  (originally presented at Closing the Gap 2012) in my TPT store here.

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