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Session Descriptions

Expanding AAC: Accessible Strategies for Functional Communication

December 1–13, 2021 | Online Conference 

These pre-recorded lectures are on-demand and last about an hour, so you can listen to them whenever time permits! Sessions are grouped into four areas: getting started with AAC, intervention, collaboration and carryover, and specific populations.

Expanding AAC: An Overview and Action Plan
Carole Zangari, PhD, CCC-SLP

This session will give an overview of the “Expanding AAC: Accessible Strategies for Functional Communication” online conference and address how the conference sessions can provide practical and accessible strategies for overcoming some of the common barriers to providing effective AAC services. The speaker will also introduce a strategy for developing a next-steps action plan that participants can use during the conference.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • identify 2 barriers to AAC across service delivery settings
  • use a strategy for developing a next-steps plan for AAC implementation

Getting Started With AAC

Effective Practices in AAC Assessment
Jill E. Senner, PhD, CCC-SLP, and Matthew R. Baud, MS, CCC-SLP

Given the landscape of hundreds of apps, speech-generating devices, low-tech options, and no-tech strategies, SLPs who do not typically complete AAC assessments may wonder who to refer for an AAC an assessment and how they can contribute to the assessment process. This session will review the AAC assessment process, with an emphasis on feature matching and consideration of the individual’s current and future needs.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • list at least four assessment tools appropriate for children with complex communication needs
  • describe at least four features that should be matched to a child when conducting an AAC assessment
  • name at least three funding sources for speech-generating devices

Moving Toward a Robust AAC System
Vicki Clarke, MS, CCC-SLP

This session will examine the often-daunting process of moving a child who is minimally verbal or nonverbal from a basic to a full-featured AAC system. The session will cover the selection, use, and goal-setting process of a basic, functional communication and language development system while planning for assessment for and implementation of a fuller system. The speaker will share suggestions for designing effective intervention sessions and ideas for helping the team get on board. 

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • list options for robust AAC systems and discuss the process of selecting one that is appropriate for specific individuals
  • identify appropriate goals for individuals who are beginning to use robust AAC tools
  • discuss elements of an effective intervention session for individuals who are new to a robust AAC system

Setting Goals for Students Who Use AAC
Lauren S. Enders, MA, CCC-SLP

This session will explore the process of selecting and crafting measurable goals that are appropriate for students learning to communicate using AAC. The speaker will review the AAC competency categories, share tools that SLPs can use to identify developmentally appropriate learning targets, and discuss strategies for writing observable and measurable goals.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • use an AAC competency-based tool to identify a developmentally appropriate skill to target for a learner who uses AAC
  • use at least one resource to write a measurable and observable goal for a learner who uses AAC

Creating AAC-Friendly Environments
Kathy L. Howery, PhD, with contributions from Chelsea Hagen

This session will explore evidence-based strategies to make environments communicatively accessible to students who use aided language systems. The speaker will discuss barriers these students may encounter in language learning, how we can proactively reduce these barriers, and how we can use peers and other communication partners to create language-supportive environments using AAC. The session will also include reflections on what worked and what didn't from students who used AAC systems in classrooms.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • critically evaluate environments in which students who use aided communication are engaged
  • develop more communicatively accessible learning environments
  • advocate for the needs of children and young adults who require AAC to develop communication and language


Effective, Engaging AAC Instruction
Caroline R. Musselwhite, EdD, CCC-SLP, and Krista Howard, AA

This session will explore tools, strategies, and a framework to enhance engagement, learning, and generalization for students who use AAC. The speaker will discuss various ways to support students’ learning and communication with peers, including using social communication games, combining core vocabulary and literacy, and determining authentic purposes.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • determine targets for AAC intervention that are both authentic and important for learners
  • implement at least one light-tech and one high-tech tool to support learning and enhance engagement
  • identify one strategy from each of the components of the RMP-GO framework to explicitly teach and generalize language skills

Developing Engaging AAC Sessions for Secondary and Post-Secondary Students
Ashley Larisey, MS, CCC-SLP

SLPs who work with older students who use AAC are challenged to develop engaging intervention activities that are age-respectful as well as integrate literacy, classroom curriculum, and post-secondary training. This session will explore how to use communicator profiles to provide scaffolding for secondary and post-secondary students who use AAC within the context of meaningful, engaging activities.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • identify and adapt materials that can be used to develop highly engaging intervention plans for high school and post-secondary students who use AAC 
  • implement AAC intervention for middle and high school students while using communicator profiles/AAC ability levels as a guide for the scaffolding and modification of intervention plans

AAC Intervention as Language Intervention: Building on What You Know
Gail M. Van Tatenhove, MS, CCC-SLP, with contributions from Faye Warren

This session will explore how to adapt traditional speech-language practices to serve students who use AAC systems. The session will demonstrate analyzing language samples from a student using an AAC system and then developing goals and intervention activities to address development in the areas of pragmatics, phonology, vocabulary, and grammar.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • write intervention goals that address all areas of speech-language development for children who use AAC
  • analyze a language sample from a student who uses AAC
  • adapt an expressive language intervention activity for use with a student who uses AAC

Engaging and Manageable School-Based AAC Telepractice
Sarah Gregory, MS, CCC-SLP, and Hannah Foley, BA

AAC teletherapy can be fun, engaging, and effective with the right tools and strategies. This session will provide guidance on setting up AAC systems for modeling during virtual sessions as well as tools SLPs can use to view a student's AAC device virtually. The speaker will explore free and low-cost telepractice materials to increase student engagement and make planning more manageable.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • conduct engaging telepractice sessions for students who use AAC
  • select or develop appropriate low-tech and digital materials to support AAC use during telepractice

Collaboration and Carryover

There’s No Place Like Home: Supporting AAC at Home
Kate R. Ahern, MS 

Having knowledgeable and supported caregivers—including parents, siblings, care attendants, home aides, home nurses, and extended family—is vital to an AAC user’s success. New opportunities for virtual sessions allow a level of home involvement and support previously made difficult by time and logistical constraints. This session will discuss practical strategies for teaching and supporting home caregivers. 

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • explain the purpose of creating shared beliefs between practitioners and caregivers
  • analyze the needs of caregivers as they apply to supporting learners who use AAC at home 
  • explain 2-3 practical options for supporting caregivers
  • create a Home Support Plan for the family of a learner who uses AAC

Improving AAC Implementation With Effective Collaboration
Vicki Haddix, MS, CCC-SLP, with contributions from Kevin Williams

Effective collaboration among individuals who use AAC and their families, communication partners at school/work, and those in the community can promote positive outcomes for the AAC communicators. This session will define what successful information exchanges can look like and explore who in the community an SLP may want to include as collaborators. The presenter will share strategies for effective and efficient collaboration across the AAC communicator’s family, school/work life, and broader community.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • describe at least two characteristics of a successful information exchange
  • identify the appropriate style of collaboration for particular individuals who use AAC
  • describe at least three strategies to increase collaboration around AAC implementation with families, school/work staff and peers, and community members

Integrating AAC in School Settings
Kelly Fonner, MS

This session will discuss strategies to incorporate AAC throughout a student’s school day to increase their expressive output over a variety of communication opportunities. The speaker will present ideas for creating a systematic integration plan and discuss strategies that can work with low- or high-tech AAC systems to prompt expressive communication initiations, topic maintenance, and appropriate conversation redirection and termination.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • determine the communication context of the activities within various school-based settings
  • create a systematic plan for integrating AAC into a student’s daily learning activities
  • prompt communication within school activities by applying communication facilitator supports and scaffolding strategies

Specific Populations

Building Early Communication Skills: Matching AAC Strategies to Developmental Needs
Cynthia J. Cress, PhD, CCC-SLP

Learning to gesture or use aided AAC for intentional communication with a partner is challenging for some infants and toddlers with complex communication needs. This session will explore a variety of intervention strategies that improve pre-intentional and intentional communication skills using various AAC modalities and some of which incorporate families and caregivers. The speaker will share live illustrations and video examples of young children who have various difficulties with pre-intentional communication and problem solve about how intervention can structure the learner’s experiences to fill in gaps. 

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • adapt evaluations for young children by comparing key AAC strategies needed for different types of early communication skills
  • develop intervention plans using AAC strategies that address both pre-intentional and intentional communication goals based on a young child’s specific communication challenges
  • identify alternative AAC interventions that enhance a young child’s progress or overcome barriers in implementing existing interventions

A Culturally and Linguistically Responsive Approach to AAC
Gloria Soto, PhD

In this session, the speaker will review the characteristics of culturally and linguistically responsive AAC practices and present evidence-based strategies for culturally appropriate bilingual AAC assessment and intervention. The speaker will discuss partnering with families to determine values, needs, priorities, and resources when implementing AAC.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • develop a culturally and linguistically responsive assessment and intervention plan
  • collaborate with the family and prioritize home language maintenance when developing an intervention plan
  • customize AAC systems to include relevant vocabulary that is culturally and linguistically appropriate and representative

Planning AAC Intervention for Children With ASD
Lesley E. Mayne, PhD, CCC-SLP

This session will present an organizational framework for planning AAC intervention that maximizes communication for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). The session will present strategies to support children with ASD and their communication partners, including clinicians, parents, and teachers. The speaker will define the “mask of attention” for children with ASD; discuss factors that contribute to the challenge of looking behind this mask to increase communication; and demonstrate how to plan and organize a goal-driven AAC intervention session. 

Note: This session was previously offered as a standalone live webinar on July 15, 2020, and is currently offered as an on-demand webinar (WEB19919) in the ASHA Learning Pass.

After completing this session, you will be able to:

  • describe a framework for analyzing communication behaviors of a child with ASD to determine strengths and needs
  • document the factors contributing to the perception of inattention in a child, and determine an action plan to support communication and participation
  • create measurable AAC goals to maximize participation of children who use AAC with communication partners across environments

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