ACT provides a wide range of services in the rapidly changing fields of augmentative communication and assistive technology. These services include Assessment, Individualized Treatment, Consultation, System Development, and Inservicing and Training.

Assessment Services

Individuals are assessed in a natural environment to determine the best possible means of communication for the individual and his life style. This differs from traditional speech-language assessment techniques since formalized testing is rarely utilized, unless specifically requested, because it is not felt to be necessary to determine appropriate communication systems.

The assessment process followed by ACT focuses on determining what type of communication system would be appropriate for the individual within his environment. Communication systems may range from simple to complex picture communication boards (No Tech systems), simple battery powered cause/effect toys or voice output devices with a limited number of messages (Low Tech systems), and, finally, complex, sophisticated computerized voice output devices (High Tech systems).

The ACT assessment process concludes with a formal written report which identifies the individual's communicative strengths and weakness, compares and contrasts each communication system considered, as well as justifies the selected communication system.

Individualized Intervention

Intervention and training services are provided. These services are individualized to fit the needs of the client and to promote independent, effective, and efficient use of the communication system in his everyday environments.

It is widely established that the prerequisites that have been historically held to be necessary for eligibility for traditional speech-language therapy services are not necessary for AAC intervention. There are no defined cognitive skills necessary for language development using AAC techniques and strategies. AAC intervention begins at the individual's level of function rather than waiting for him to attain certain skills. Consequently, an individual with severe cognitive impairments is no longer denied communicative intervention services simply because he lacks arbitrarily defined prerequisite skills.

ACT bases all intervention on the following seven principles:

  1. Focus on the individual's strengths, not weaknesses.For an individual to successfully learn to use AAC means of communication, his motivation to use the system must not be outweighed by the difficulty to use the system. Focusing on the individual's weaknesses raises the difficulty level and therefore prevents long term success.
  2. AAC intervention should be multi modal, since communication is multi modal in nature. All typical individuals use various forms of communication including gesture, facial expression, speech, writing and symbols. AAC communication systems need to be constructed to include various modes of communication too. This allows for more natural interaction patterns as well as the ability to communicate in all environments.
  3. Focus must be on today and tomorrow. It is critical that a functional communication system be provided instantly so that the individual experiences the power and pleasure of communication. However, it is crucial to develop the system so that it can be expanded and adapted as necessary when the individual matures or needs a more complex communication system.
  4. Both contextual and specific skills need to be identified. The individual needs to learn to use the communication system appropriately in the specific environmental context. However, often, individuals who are in need of alternate forms of communication also need to learn specific skills. These may include specific motor movements, and strategies or techniques to prevent or repair communication breakdowns.
  5. Cognitive, linguistic, sensory, and motor demands need to be identified and recognized. As indicated previously, the amount of difficulty to use a communication system must not outweigh the motivation to use it. Therefore, the communication system must be adapted to accommodate for any cognitive, linguistic, sensory, or motoric difficulties.
  6. It is critical to identify and utilize the support systems available to the AAC user, their communication partners, and their facilitators to build communicative competence. Without an intact support system an effective communication system is not possible. Therefore, training must be provided to the individual's family, assistants, teachers, friends and other associated professionals as well as to the individual.
  7. Meaningful communication is a shared responsibility. Learning to communicate using alternate forms of communication is not the sole responsibility of the individual. All members of the support team must share in the responsibility and be active participants in the communication process.

Whether the communication system is No Tech, Low Tech, or High Tech, competency areas need to be addressed. ACT provides a well rounded approach by identifying four competency areas. These are Operational Competence, Linguistic Competence, Social Competence, and Strategic Competence.

  1. Operational Competence. The most immediate need for the user, and those who support the individual, is to acquire knowledge in all the operational and maintenance aspects of the device or system. However, it is critical that intervention move to other competence areas as soon as possible because operational competence alone does not make an effective communicator.
  2. Linguistic Competence. This involves teaching a functional mastery of the symbol system or linguistic code displayed on the communication system. This also involves developing the individual's understanding and use of syntax and semantics.
  3. Social Competence. This is perhaps the most important competency area because individuals with good social skills are perceived as more competent and intelligent communicators. Social competence requires the AAC user to have knowledge, judgment, and skills as to when to speak, when not, and as to what to talk about, with whom, when, where, and in what manner.
  4. Strategic Competence. Because even the most flexible AAC system imposes some interactive limitations, the individual needs to learn to communicate effectively within restrictions. AAC users need to use coping strategies to prevent communication breakdowns and to use when they occur.

Consultation Services

Consultation services are provided to families, school staff and other professionals regarding implementation or development of augmentative communication systems. By drawing on ACT's vast experience with individuals who use augmentative communication systems, parents, teachers, or other therapists are able to adapt the AAC system of their child, student, or client for more effective use in the specific environment.

ACT often provides consultative services to school districts. In this role, ACT provides staff members with information regarding appropriate techniques, strategies and materials for the particular academic situation. At times, this also includes information on how to adapt the school curriculum, materials, and the classroom environment for technology use.

System Development

The process of constructing communication systems is often confusing, overwhelming, and time consuming. Often, the families or professionals working with the individual do not know what symbol systems are available or appropriate to use, how to arrange the information in a meaningful manner, what vocabulary to include, how to plan for vocabulary expansion in the future, vocabulary enhancement techniques, and rate enhancement strategies. ACT assists with constructing communication systems for the specific needs of the individual.

Inservice and Training Services

ACT has a long history of providing professional seminars, workshops, inservices and group training sessions. Topics may be individualized for the specific organization requesting the seminar, workshop or inservice. Subject matter may range from overview sessions on augmentative and alternative communication and/or assistive technology use with a specific population to specific device training sessions.

Examples of topics which have been presented by ACT are as follows:

  • Overview and Assessment Procedures in Augmentative and Alternative Communication
  • Use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication in Children with Cerebral Palsy
  • Use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication with Severely Involved Individuals
  • Use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication with Young Children
  • Assessment and Intervention Principles with Augmentative and Alternative Communication
  • Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems with Autistic Children
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Use of No Tech Systems and Intervention Principles
  • Use of Low Tech Systems and Intervention Principles
  • Use of High Tech Systems and Intervention Principles
  • Cost Effective Electronic Systems
  • Developing IEP Goals in the School Setting
  • Using the AlphaTalker and DeltaTalker in the Academic Setting
  • Using the DynaVox and DigiVox in the Academic Setting
  • Using the Macaw in the Academic Setting
  • Using Computer Based Systems in the Academic Setting