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Transition

AAC and AT

AAC and AT

What they are

Assistive Technology (AT) includes a broad range of devices and services that enhance learning opportunities, build independence and improve communication across activities and environments. Categories include positioning, access, environmental control, sensory aids, mobility, computer-based aids, social interaction and recreation, self-care, and augmentative alternative communication.

The goal of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is to increase the forms (hows) & functions (whys) of communication beyond that which is possible with natural communication strategies (Quill, 1995).

According to current law, all children with disabilities, from birth to 21 years, who are eligible to receive special education or early intervention services must be considered for assistive technology as part of their Individualized Family Services Plan (IFSP) or Individualized Education Program (IEP).

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What they’re not

Assistive Technology is not about finding a single, one-dimensional strategy. AT solutions often require input and information from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. Nor is AT always high-tech. There is a wide range of tools and strategies to consider and/or develop. This also means there is no AT cookbook. AT solutions are as individual as the student.

AAC does not replace or hinder development of verbal speech. On the contrary, the introduction of AAC has been seen to positively correlate with the improvement of natural speech and use of language. For a review of research on this point, see http://aac.unl.edu/yaack/b2.html .

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How they work

    AAC devices can be interfaced to a computer in order to use the device as an alternate keyboard which sends information directly to the computer.

AT and AAC are about the goal for the individual not the tool being used. In determining which AT/AAC tool or strategy to use, one should ask a series of questions to determine the goal, the tool and the process for implementation. It is often helpful to outline a student’s activities, any barriers getting in the way of their participation, and possible solutions.

  • What is the goal?
  • What is happening?
  • What needs to happen?
  • What technology to use?
  • Who is responsible?

Clinical trials - strategically using, monitoring and documenting possible solutions - are also of the essence in determining which strategies and devices are best for an individual student.


Quill, K.A. (1995) Teaching children with autism: Strategies to Enhance Communication and Socialization. New York: Delmar Publishers.

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