2018 TASH Conference has ended
Each year, the TASH Conference brings together a diverse community of stakeholders who gain information, learn about resources, and connect with others across the country to strengthen the disability field. This year’s conference theme, “Be Creative - Innovative Solutions for an Inclusive Life,” reminds us to think outside the box during times of uncertainty. Creativity, innovation, and determination can pave the way for meaningful and inclusive lives for people with disabilities.

Thursday, November 29 • 5:30pm - 7:00pm
The Training Experiences of AAC Professionals

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AAC intervention is a critical part of AAC services for individuals with complex communication needs (CCN). In order to ensure high quality AAC intervention, AAC training for practitioners is essential. Within the field, researchers recommended competencies for practitioners supporting individuals who use AAC (DaFonte & Boesch, 2016). These competencies include: 1) knowledge about communicative development and communicative competency (Filmore & Snow, 2000; Light & McNaughton, 2014); 2) teamwork and collaborative practices (Chung & Douglas, 2014); 3) role and functions of AAC systems (Lebel, Olshtain, & Weiss, 2005); and 4) AAC instructional strategies (McMillan, 2008). Furthermore, it has been shown that AAC competency is essential for educational and therapeutic practitioners due to increases in current case load assignments of children who use AAC (Kent-Walsh, Stark, & Binger, 2008). Yet, AAC training for pre-service speech language pathologists, occupational therapists, and special education teachers remains insufficient (Costigan, & Light, 2010). More training is needed, but given the current pre-service training in the field a combined pre-service/in-service training approach is likely to be essential to support individuals with CCN as they obtain communicative competence (Ratcliff, Koul, & Lloyd, 2008). AAC practitioners (AAC specialists, SLPs with expertise in AAC, etc.) are often utilized to provide the needed training to communication partners (e.g., teachers, paraprofessionals, therapists, family members, peers). However, little is known within the literature about their experiences providing training to communication partners, or their own preparation to provide AAC training to others. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the training experiences of AAC practitioners. Specifically, we sought to gain knowledge to help inform future interventions. The study utilized focus group research methods with AAC practitioners in Michigan to answer the following research questions: (a) What are the facilitators and barriers in practitioners' practices associated with supporting children with complex communication needs (CCN) who utilize augmentative and alternative communication systems (low tech/high tech)?; (b) What training needs are perceived as essential for practitioners when working with children with CCN? Do these essential skills align with the current competency recommendations? (c) What AAC skills or training are lacking for practitioners?; (d) Are there different practitioner training needs associated with the various developmental stages of the child with CCN?; (e) What training do practitioners need to support other communication partners of individuals who use AAC? Data from the study were analyzed using a constant comparative approach to determine underlying themes from data collected during focus groups with participants. Results from the study will be discussed in the context of current AAC training models to support AAC practitioner needs and changes that should be made in the future, including innovative intervention and training methods. Limitations and future research directions based on study results will also be discussed.

avatar for Rebecca Kammes

Rebecca Kammes

Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Michigan State University

Thursday November 29, 2018 5:30pm - 7:00pm
Salon E - Lower Level 1401 SW Naito Parkway, Portland, OR 97201

Attendees (2)