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Feature-Matching in AAC Assessment: Operational Features

Updated: Jun 6, 2023

Did you know? AAC intervention also includes goals targeting the operational domain, which are the strategies and skills in the technical operation and production of AAC (Beukelman & Light, 2020). As a part of the AAC assessment process, operational features must also be considered.

Operational features are those that are related to the operation of an AAC system. According to Locast and Marx (2016), operational features include:

  • Device functioning requirements

  • Ease of editing

  • Funding options

  • Warranty and repair coverage

  • Technical support availability

  • Computer interface

Ease of editing:

  • Consider how intuitive it is to edit and customize the system.

  • How easy is it for a communication partner to quickly edit a button or hide a button?

  • Also consider the availability for backing up the user's device to save any modifications that are made. No one wants to lose their personalized AAC system!

Funding options:

  • What is the funding availability for an AAC system for the user? For each individual, it's important to consider what their funding sources cover.

  • If an individual is multimodal or use multiple access methods, it is important to consider the funding requirements needed for the recommended AAC system.

  • It may be necessary to pursue alternate funding sources, such as state Assistive Technology programs or grants.

Warranty and repair coverage:

  • Identify the the warranty and repair coverage available for an AAC system being recommended and share that information with the AAC user and their family/caregivers.

Additional considerations:

  • Outside supports for those involved with the AAC user must be taken into consideration. What is the availability of the technical support? Are there specialists that can provide additional trainings for the school staff? For an AAC user to have success with independently communicating through AAC, their family, caregivers, and those around them need support and training in AAC implementation.

  • What are the charging requirements for the system? Can it support the user throughout their day and across environments?

  • Consider the computer interface and whether it can support the user for a wide range of functions.

How does Forbes AAC support these features in a unique way?

  • You can chat in real time with our funding specialists as well as our customer service and our technical support! We can assist you from 8 am to 5 pm EST.

  • With Forbes AAC, the XTNDR Battery Pack provides AAC users with up to sixteen hours* of continuous run time without adding any bulk or weight to the device. The XTNDR battery is an industry first design concept that allows an external battery pack to be mounted directly to a wheelchair.

  • We also offer the best warranty in the industry! With our ProSlate Series devices, we include a five year warranty to protect against damages that may occur. This means no waiting for funding for repairs and no gap time between upgrades!

Successful AAC intervention requires the user to have knowledge and skills in four interrelated domains: linguistic, operational, social, and strategic (Light & McNaughton, 2014). How to we target the operational domain?

  • These skills include teaching independence in using specific access methods, in navigating within a communication system, and operating the mechanics of the device.

  • When a user first receives an AAC device, it’s easy to focus solely on goals under the linguistic domain, however goals should also include teaching the AAC user how to maximize independence in the operational domain!

  • Examples include teaching a user how to appropriately manage the volume on their device which will allow them to communicate in a socially appropriate manner or teaching a child to remove their AAC device from their backpack independently upon arrival at school.

Want to use the feature-matching process in your own clinical practice? Try these feature-matching chart from Forbes AAC!

Another great resource to check out? This resource from the Communication Aids and Systems Clinic (CASC) at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics created by Abygail Marx, M.S., CCC-SLP and Mary Locast, OTR.


  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Augmentative and Alternative Communication (Practice Portal).

  • Beukelman, D. R., & Light, J. C. (2020). Augmentative & alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs (5th ed.). Brookes.

  • Gosnell, J., Costello, J., & Shane, H. (2011). Using a clinical approach to answer “what communication apps should we use?” SIG 12 Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 20(3), 87–96.

  • Light, J., & McNaughton, D. (2014). Communicative competence for individuals who require augmentative and alternative communication: A new definition for a new era of communication? Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 30,1–18.

  • Locast, M. & Marx, A. (2016). AAC Feature Matching Overview [Presented at The American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine AACPDM) Annual Meeting]. Accessed from: (June 8th, 2022).

  • Shane, H., & Costello, J. (1994, November). Augmentative communication assessment and the feature matching process. Mini-seminar presented at the annual convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. New Orleans, LA.

Katie Threlkeld, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed, ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist and the Educational Program Developer at Forbes AAC. She has over eight years of experience in AT and AAC assessment and treatment with both the pediatric and adult populations. Katie has presented at the state and national level on AAC topics and she has University teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate level.

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