The expectations of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) and clinicians today are higher than they’ve ever been before. With new challenges like increased productivity expectations, additional documentation, as well as the ongoing challenges of dealing with therapy caps, authorizations, and scheduling, SLPs often wonder how to add high-tech augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to their to-do list.

But AAC doesn’t have to be just another “to-do” list item. In fact, AAC can be used to facilitate productivity, outcomes, and client satisfaction. Here are some tried-and-true strategies from seasoned SLPs who use AAC in their practices on a regular basis. 

  1. Connect:  Use the high-tech AAC device as your way to connect with your client. Share information about yourself and find things that you have in common. With a Lingraphica device you have more than 9,000 different icons available. This expansive vocabulary provides different topic areas you can use with your client. Find the things that you have in common with your client, like favorite desserts, sports teams, etc., and use this as a building block for activities that matter to him or her.
  2. Facilitate:  Use the high-tech communication device to facilitate independent practice. For example, you may use the video icons in the Lingraphica to facilitate independent practice of oral motor exercises. You can make a folder of the specific exercises you want your client to do in and out of therapy. You can also make your own video icons so clients can practice imitating their names, addresses, and phone numbers. By focusing on the things that are personally relevant to your client, you’ll have better outcomes and higher client satisfaction.
  3. Motivate:  Use the high-tech communication device to motivate and encourage your client. For example, create a folder that reminds your client of all the progress he or she has made. A good example would be, “I walked 25 steps in therapy on April 10” or “I am hoping to go home on May 5.” Not only are icons like this reinforcing to your client, but they also provide opportunities to start a dialogue with others.
  4. Practice:  Use the high-tech communication device to work on activities your client will encounter. For example, write your speech-generating device (SGD) evaluation during therapy with your client. Use each specific section for the client to give input, answer questions, and confirm answers. This is good practice for future visits with other health care providers. You may tailor the questions to the level of the client: yes/no questions, multiple choice, open ended (use Type and Talk), etc.
  5. Demonstrate:  Use the high-tech communication device to show the skilled nature and medical necessity of your treatments. One example is to create a folder of the patient’s diagnoses, frequent physical complaints, history and medications on the device. You can even use part of your sessions to help your client communicate about these things and document in your notes the potential risks associated with his/her communication impairment and how your treatment and use of the SGD alleviates these risks.

Using high-tech AAC not only facilitates communication early on in your client’s journey of rehabilitation, but it also provides an avenue for you to provide personally relevant, contextual, and skilled interventions that lead to improved outcomes.

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