In this post, we cover the basic steps you’ll take to trial high-tech AAC devices, like speech-generating devices, with your adult patients.
These are the steps to take after completing an AAC for adults assessment, and after you, the patient, and their facilitator have agreed that a high-tech AAC device is the best fit.
As these are basic steps, you’ll still need to do some additional research on which devices to trial and how specifically to trial each one.
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1. Clarify If You Should Trial AAC Devices
Have you completed an AAC assessment? Have you decided—with the patient and their facilitator—that a high-tech device is the best fit for them? Great! Now it’s time to think trials.
A high-tech speech-generating device might be your patient’s voice for years.
Whether it’s a good fit depends on your patient’s strengths, weaknesses, likes, and dislikes, among other factors. It can also be a large financial investment, so it’s best practice to trial a few devices before your patient commits their time and money.
2. Do Your Research
Research the available devices online. Review the specifications to decide which devices are the best potential match for your patient’s needs.
This webpage by everyonecommunicates.org is a good place to start comparing the AAC technology that’s out there, including approved vendor lists and help to secure funding.
High-Tech AAC Device Examples
Here are AAC device examples. This list is meant to help you get started, but it’s not comprehensive! Again, do your research.
- Tobbi DynaVox
- Megabee Assisted Communication and Writing Tablet
- Enabling Devices Tactile Symbol Communicator
- GOTALK 9+
- FAB Frenchay Alphabet Board
- Lightwriter SL40
- Gooshy Step Talk Communicator
- Big Talk Assistive Technology Communicator
- GoTalk Express 32 – Advanced Communication Aid
- Pocket Go-Talk 5-Level Communication Device
Always clarify how much money your patient is willing and able to pay for a trial before devices. Do keep in mind that speech-generating devices are considered durable medical equipment and are covered in part by Medicare (US), Medicaid, and some private insurance companies.
3. Decide on Which Device to Trial
This will be a collaborative process between you, your patient, and their facilitator.
Once you identify a few promising devices, print out useful information for your patient. Share videos of the devices being used. Discuss which devices seem like the best fit.
4. Contact the Device Companies
Contact the company via email or phone. Representatives are typically prompt, helpful, and forthcoming.
Questions for the Company
Get the most out of your call with the company by having a list of questions ready. Ask about costs, length of trials, how to return a device, who to contact for technical help, etc.
Companies may require the patient’s insurance information prior to lending a device—and it’s always straightforward. Ask the representative for step-by-step instructions on how to submit this information.
5. Trial the Device with the Patient
Once the device arrives, complete a preliminary personalization of the device by adding and deleting messages based on your patient’s wants and needs.
Teaching AAC to Adults
- Review the device with your patient. Show them the overall layout and organization. Model how to type, create phrases and sentences, add and delete vocabulary, and change settings
- Complete a device trial assessment. This will feel like a language assessment. Ask the patient to:
- Locate icons
- Match icons to words
- Type words
- Type phrases
- Type sentences
- Build phrases and sentences using icons
- Participate in conversation
- Provie cues and prompts as needed to increase accuracy and avoid frustration.
Include the Facilitators
The patient’s preferences, wants, and needs are your top priority. However, facilitator feedback and training are also important for AAC to be successful. Keep the facilitator up-to-date and include them in the session as needed.
Identifying a Good Match
You know you’ve find a good match when:
- The patient can communicate their wants and needs using the device
- The patient navigates the devices with minimal to no frustration
- During the trial period, the patient shows some progress in speed and/or complexity of messages produced
- The patient can afford the device (and/or secure funding)