Linn Benton Lincoln Education Service District (LBL ESD) Cascade Regional Alternative/Augmentative Communication (AAC) services support students from 5 to 21 years of age residing in Linn, Benton, or Lincoln counties. Because people communicate across the day every single day, the goal of the AAC department is to support school staff in creating and supporting student communication opportunities throughout the school day/week – infusing communication training in daily tasks and routines. Specialist provide information, strategies and systems, and loan devices that will increase a child’s ability to functionally communicate in their educational and daily activities. The focus of AAC services is to augment or provide an alternative to verbal speech. Cascade Regional AAC Specialists support the staff that work with students with the most complex communication needs. The needs and skills of the student, as well as the needs and skills of their school based support team, will influence how AAC service(s) are delivered.
Who is Eligible?
Flowchart for When/How to Refer for AAC
Students from 5 to 21 years of age residing in Linn, Benton, or Lincoln counties, who have an existing special education program, demonstrate significant difficulty communicating, and need a specialized system to support their educational program. The school-based SLP must be part of the referring team and concur with the need for AAC.
*At least one of these skills need to be impacted to receive AAC services
Student Profiles that May Necessitate an AAC Referral/Services:
- A student with little or no speech with significant cognitive needs. The students that are the most unlike the rest of an SLP’s caseload that often require a somewhat different skillset. These students are often going to be long-term AAC users.
- A student with little or no speech, or deeply unintelligible speech, but needing less cognitive support. These students are often going to be lifelong AAC users.
- Young students with impaired speech who will need AAC for a short time only to help keep them on track developmentally and academically while their speech catches up. These students are more likely to be short-term AAC users.
- A student whose speech is at least partly unintelligible but who can make themselves understood enough to be primarily a verbal communicator. They still tend to need a backup method for when communication breaks down. Their speech can often negatively impact language development as well. Typically these students struggle with literacy but have a lot to say. Supports might end up looking like symbol-based “writing” instruction. Once they acquire competence with a system they are able to use it as a backup for communication and written expression.
- Students with pragmatic deficits (i.e. deficits in their use of language–a typical diagnosis might be autism). Students may have echoed verbal output or low verbal output in some settings or may need visual strategies as a way to understand the purpose/function of language. These students might always need AAC, need it in certain settings, or only when emotionally escalated. They could be short-term or long-term AAC users.
The AAC Specialist may provide these supports to assist the student so they are able to achieve their other IEP goals:
- Evaluation for AAC services
- Assistance in developing and implementing communication systems
- Problem solving/troubleshooting equipment and software
- Preparation of adapted materials
The purpose of the consultative services is to closely monitor student needs/progress and to facilitate a successful inclusion experience. Services may include:
- Participation as a team member on the Individual Education Program (IEP) team
- Support to Local Education Agency (LEA)-based Speech and Language Pathologists (SLP) working with the students most impacted by lack of intelligibility or functional communication
- Consultation and collaboration with district SLP, educational teams and other agencies
- Augmentative/alternative communication systems and instruction in those systems
- Assistive/adaptive technology evaluation and services
- Equipment for student short-term trial or loaner use
- Consultation to the general education teacher(s) and other appropriate school staff
- Parent education
As mentioned above, because people communicate across the day every single day, the goal of the AAC department is to support school staff in creating and supporting student communication opportunities throughout the school day/week—infusing communication training in daily tasks and routines. The needs and skills of the student, as well as the needs and skills of their school based support team, will influence how AAC service(s) are delivered.