What are Different Tele-AAC Services?
Direct services: where we work directly with the individual through the Internet to work on his or her goals. There would generally be another person (aide, educator, parent or caregiver) with the individual at his or her location for either the whole session or to help set up and break down.
Evaluations: where two of our clinicians work together to do the evaluation, but one works directly with the individual at his or her location, and the other clinician views the session through the Internet. This makes it less overwhelming for the individual, allows us to include specialists who otherwise couldn’t travel to the individual’s location, and enables us to write the report more quickly.
Consultation: where our clinician works with team members that are working with an individual needing our support. Connecting over the Internet allows us to coordinate schedules more easily, save on travel time, and collaborate in effective ways using videos and other tools.
Tele-AAC for Training
Through careful application of a range of telecommunication technologies, clinicians and professionals with expertise in specific domains are able to provide training and consultation to individuals, pre-/professionals, and parents/caregivers regarding intervention, implementation and generalization strategies. This can occur in real-time through Active Consultation or eSupervision, or after an event occurred using store-and-forward techniques involved in eMentoring and training.
Is Tele-AAC Comparable to On-site Services?
Yes and no as it depends on the individual. There is a growing number of research studies detailing instances in which services are comparable. It is important to know that it will be better for some individuals over others. For those who are good candidates for AAC, we find that the use of the computer is motivating and engaging, and that students are better able to attend to the intervention targets. We also find that generalization of skills taught during tele-AAC intervention is sometimes better, as team members are more involved in tele-AAC sessions than when we are there in person.
With respect to consultation we find that it really depends on the team. Some team members are overwhelmed by technology, and adding the “hardware” associated with tele-AAC adds to that dynamic. However, oftentimes, once we have provided some initial onsite training and the team is more comfortable with the procedures related to tele-AAC, the team really likes it. Tele-AAC helps address scheduling challenges. With the appropriate permissions, sessions can be recorded and shared with team members who could participate or who want to review the information. Tele-AAC empowers parents to “tune in,” and it is possible to engage in screen-sharing techniques that allow team members to practice in real-time.
Is Tele-AAC an Option for Initial Assessments?
Yes. We find that using telepractice for assessments helps us better collaborate with team members, and bring in necessary expertise. It is important that there is an on-site clinician or team member that is comfortable interacting with different AAC tools either presented via the computer, or in-person with the student (i.e., a trial or sample device). In some cases where intensive behavioral support is needed an assessment via telepractice is not appropriate. As with intervention, it is important to do a preliminary candidacy assessment.