•  
  •  
 

Abstract

The COVID-19 global pandemic has affected the disability network across the world. In the United States, there are millions of people who cannot use their natural speech to communicate. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), a form of assistive technology (AT), helps people with complex communication needs (CCNs) to communicate with others. Examples of AAC include printed pictures and speech-generating devices. A team of professionals work together with the person with CCNs and their caregivers to choose the right type of AAC. Often, people with CCNs need face-to-face and ongoing AAC support. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this population already faced multiple challenges to receive on-going support and services due to multiple factors, including limited access to AAC specialists and travel constraints. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many services for people with CCNs stopped to abide by stay-at-home orders and ensure the safety of the person with CCNs and their caregivers. This paper describes how one AT Program at a University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) adapted AAC services and increased access to support using (a) tele-AAC assessment practices, (b) services through a partnership with our state AT Act program, and (c) tele-coaching strategies to help providers and caregivers in their facilitation and implementation of AAC services. We also discuss key considerations in tele-AAC practices to help people with CCNs and their caregivers during COVID-19 and beyond.

Plain Language Summary

COVID-19 has affected the disability network across the world. There are millions of people who cannot use their natural speech. AAC tools help these people to communicate. Examples of AAC include printed pictures and speech-generating devices. Professionals work with the person and their family to choose the right AAC. Often, people who use AAC need ongoing support. During COVID-19, many AAC services stopped to keep people safe. This paper describes how one center adapted AAC services. First, we outline the use of tele-AAC services. Then, we discuss how we used state AAC resources. Last, we highlight how we used tele-coaching to support caregivers. We conclude with suggestions for providing tele-AAC during COVID-19 and beyond.

Additional Files

Table 1 Essential Steps in the AAC process.docx (19 kB)
Table 1 Essential steps in AAC process

Table 2 Tele-AAC Process.docx (18 kB)
Table 2 Tele-AAC process

Figure 1.docx (52 kB)
Figure 1 Preprogrammed LAMP vocabulary

Figure 2.docx (156 kB)
Figure 2 Preprogrammed TouchChat vocabulary

Figure 3.docx (515 kB)
Figure 3 Preprogrammed GoTalkNow vocabulary

Figure 4.docx (1280 kB)
Figure 4 Tele-AAC assessment Zoom Screen Shot

Figure 5.docx (81 kB)
Figure 5 Tele-AAC assessment AAC device screen view

Share

COinS