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Trialing AAC apps! How to choose a communication system?

Updated: Jun 6, 2023


With so many AAC apps out there, how do we determine what best fits the communication needs of an AAC user?

  • The purpose of a trial is to determine which AAC app is the best fit for an AAC user, not to become 100% efficient in that communication system. It’s a time to compare and contrast features of different systems to find the right fit for a user, not to become a competent communicator in just a few weeks. That is for after the system is chosen!

  • Trialing different communication systems allows the AAC user to learn to navigate through the system. Each user learns differently – it’s important to find one that the user can learn to navigate to communicate. This takes time and patience!

  • Users who are not yet literate require a symbol-based communication system that provides access to core vocabulary, the words that make up approximately 80% of what we say every day. Many symbol-based communication systems are set up to allow the AAC user to quickly access this core vocabulary to learn and use language with pages that navigate to fringe vocabulary. These communication systems also have customization and modifying options to personalize the system for the user.

  • Just like learning a second language, AAC doesn’t happen overnight. During a trial it's important that those around the AAC user are modeling language. Children learning to verbally communicate do so by hearing and seeing those around them talking. Like with children learning to verbally communicate, AAC users need to see other people using AAC.

  • Users who are literate may prefer a keyboard, text-based communication system to quickly type out words that are then voiced. Many of these apps use prediction technology to make communication quicker and offer different keyboard options to choose from to make it as accessible as possible for the user.

Check out our new resource, Where to start with the ProSlate, at our Member Resources page at forbesaac.com! One of the many benefits of the ProSlate is the opportunity to access and trial many different communication systems and apps. This resource covers the many factors to consider when trialing AAC apps.

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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