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Say what? Assistive Technology?

Hello, it’s me again, Steph. I’m jumping right into this post that the lovely and spectacular Rachael has again asked me to write. Rachael had to really sell me the idea of writing another post... and after much deliberation and thought (approx. 2.0 seconds) the answer was YUP! I am even tasked with writing about my favourite topic. P.S. Rachael, this will do as my Christmas present. Now let’s get to the ever-important information.


“tell a child and they forget, show a child and they remember,”

Handy hints for this post:

  • AT – means Assistive Technology (very fun stuff)

  • AAC – means Assistive and Augmentative Communication, also, very fun. For those who can speak, can’t speak, can speak a bit, and everything in between.

Assistive technology is a term that can prompt the following responses:

  • A) assistive what now?

  • B) oh yeh, that’s my jam! All the pragmatic functions! Or,

  • C) ugh, pass.

Of course, the variations of these responses are vast and varied, but I’ve come to realise that assistive technology, using it, understanding it, promoting it and teaching it is the lifeblood for assisting learners with different needs. You may get a puzzled look from parents, staff, colleges or clients themselves when the term is used, however, trust me when I say any difficulties encountered in the implementation of assistive tech are worth it.



As Speech Pathologists, our roles could not be more varied. From speech (articulation) and language (vocabulary, expressive, receptive) to social interaction (routines, conversations, manners) we can assist with so many critical life skills. The one piece of advice/quote/thing I read was “tell a child and they forget, show a child and they remember,” or some variance of that theme. When assisting those with differing learning abilities, it can be critical to implement assistive technology in many forms. But the main thing where are trying to achieve, is to promote learning and retention of information, using the medium of sight.


Has you ever written yourself a to do list? That’s AT. A visual reminder of what you need to do, to support your retention of the tasks at hand. SO smart of you!


I’ll go through a bit of a cheat sheet for you all on the broad umbrella term of Assistive Technology, and Augmentative and Alternative Communication as a form itself:


  • Aided AAC: does require additional items and can be divided again into low technology (no batteries/power required) and high technology.

  • Un-Aided AAC: do not require any additional items or equipment such as facial expressions, gestures and signing.

Frankly, AT can come in so many forms I find it hard to think of a strategy or resource I use that is not AT! If you are reading this as a therapist and think hang on a hot minute, do I need to be using AT methods to assist my learners to develop long term habits and skill development? The answer is always YES! If you are using a visual schedule, expectation visual (e.g. eyes to me, hands in your lap, quiet mouth) you are already DOING IT!


If you are a parent reading this and think hold the phone, could my child benefit from implementing some AT? Again, yes, yes, YES! And I’ll go one step further on that thought. If your child/student/client is a person who cannot communicate effectively using their current mode (speech, sign, facial expression etc.), using AT is a non-negotiable, a no-brainer, a deal breaker. I like to talk about giving people a ‘communication toolbox’ (I didn’t come up with it obviously, not that smart...). If you can give your child/client/student as many possible ways to communicate, using the awesome fandangle we call AAC, you are nailing it.


Some of my favourite ways to use AT, and visual supports specifically are as follows:

  • Social stories – to prepare people for something that will happen, to decrease stress and anxiety one may feel

  • Visual routines (first/then) – to set clear boundaries and expectations on what activity/thing/job that needs to be done

  • Choice boards – to ensure the persons wishes are being heard, and they are having control over what they do in their day

  • Activity vocabulary boards – to teach the vocabulary needed to engage in an activity with friends or others

...using AT is a non-negotiable, a no-brainer, a deal breaker...

I hope this post has been informative in one way or another. I more than hope that it has inspired someone to give AT a go with their client/student/child, as the impact could be life changing. One of my favourite visuals to explain visuals (hehe) it attached in this blog post. Please also feel free to visit awesome sites like http://praacticalaac.org/ for more information.


Once again, thanks Rach for letting me dribble on your blog!


Steph Gianni


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