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AAC Path Pages

WHAT ARE AAC SYSTEM FEATURES?

Features are distinctive attributes of an AAC tool. Much like a car or a cell phone, features are often used to attract consumers as they serve a functional need or a style preference for example   AAC tools have a variety of features that lend support to different communication skills and needs and support vision, motor, and hearing challenges that may be present for a communicator.  Different AAC tools may share similar features and some may have specialized features that others do not offer.  The features of AAC systems usually fall within a few broad categories which makes them a bit easier to understand and discuss.  Different sources may discuss these categories and their subset features using different words, but generally, the categories below represent some key features to consider when exploring potential AAC tools to try. 

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WHY LEARN ABOUT FEATURES?

Although you may not have seen very many AAC tools or techniques in use, there are literally hundreds of communication devices, apps, and light tech tools on the market. It would be impossible for you to gain expertise in each one. Even if a course were designed to show you every one, you would still be confronted by new tools or techniques emerging every year.  For this reason, you shouldn't aspire to learn about all the individual tools and techniques on the market, but Instead, aim to learn about the features of AAC systems, so that you can evaluate new devices, apps, tools or techniques as they emerge. There are AAC systems that are so different from others that you must have hands-on experience with them. But,  the vast majority of AAC tools and techniques available share features with existing systems. You can evaluate many new tools by comparing these features to those of the existing systems.

Another reason to  learn about features is to help you think in terms of features as you conduct AAC assessments and consider different tools or techniques to trial.  You cannot (and, in fact must not) conduct evaluations through trials of device after device after device. Instead, you must match the skills and  needs of the individual to the features that are possible in a variety of tools and techniques.  This is known as the feature matching process. You can rule out tools or techniques as inappropriate for a communicator on the basis of these features, thereby narrowing considerably the options that would be appropriate for trial.

 

Learn about these broad feature categories and the smaller subset of features within each category by clicking on a feature path.  

 
 

AAC SYSTEM FEATURE CATEGORIES

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language

The language and literacy features available on a tool.  

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device 

The system features available on an AAC tool that influence how language is displayed and shared with a partner. 

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access

The features of an AAC tool that support access to language. 

THE FEATURE MATCHING PROCESS

 

It is best practice to conduct a thorough assessment that includes a comprehensive feature matching process prior to trialing or purchasing an AAC tool.  As outlined in the graphic above, the feature matching process aims to achieve two main goals:  1)  to use the skills and needs of the communicator and his/her family to identify key features needed in an AAC system and 2) to match the key features identified to the tools and strategies available on the market.  Feature matching also includes customizing a chosen system so that it is individualized to a communicator's skills and needs even further than what comes "out of the box".  There are many resources available to assist AAC Teams in the feature matching process.  Generally, here are a few main questions to consider alongside the data from a comprehensive, functional communication assessment.  

  • Who needs to be involved in the AAC Team to assist with feature selection?

  • What does the individual need and want to communicate?  How does he/she communicate these needs and wants right now? 

  • Where, when and with whom does he/she need/want to communicate? (contexts)

  • What are the next steps in language development for this communicator?  The next, next steps?

  • What are the communicator's, family's, and team's preferences and skills?

  • What support is needed to access an AAC tool if motor limitations are present?

  • What support is needed to access an AAC tool if vision limitations are present.