by Esther Wanjihia, MS, MFT (Parent); NWACS Contributor
Speech therapists have a unique role in enhancing AAC procurement and utilization. The intent of this article is to encourage more collaboration between the SLP recommending an AAC device and the recipient of the device. Specifically, towards ensuring that the recipient receives the needed device within a reasonable timeline and that the individual utilizes the AAC device for more than basic information exchange.
The following suggestions are intended to serve as general guidelines for SLPs to consider when working with individuals to obtain AAC systems.
Some questions to ask are:
Does the individual receive services from a public funded program such as DDA?
Is the individual enrolled in the Community First Choice or Home and Community Based Services waiver or any other program administered by DDA?
It would be helpful for the SLP to be familiar with the guidelines on obtaining assistive technology using publicly funded programs, such as Community First Choice (CFC) and/or Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers. For more information on services available to DDA customers, please visit the DDA website HERE. Publicly funded programs have specific guidelines that outline how to obtain an AAC device. If the SLP is unable to get clear information from the client, it would be prudent to reach out to the client's DDA case manager to get more information on how to obtain the AAC device on behalf of the client. For more information on how to get in touch with a DDA office, find contact information HERE.
Does the individual have commercial insurance?
I have found that calling the customer service number on the back of the commercial insurance card often leads to connection with a representative who can provide insight and/or clarify information into the process and associated questions of obtaining coverage/funding for an AAC device.
The idea here is to encourage the SLP recommending an AAC device to fully explore information and/or action steps on what the client can do to obtain an AAC device. It may help to reach out to colleagues who are more proficient on the process or to talk to the medical billing providers to become knowledgeable on the specific information needed to obtain an AAC device, accompanying software and hardware. Some vendors of AAC devices also have funding information and support available through their websites or by contacting customer service.
AAC Use Beyond the Clinical Setting
Intervention beyond working directly with the AAC user in a clinical setting is positively correlated to AAC use in naturally–occurring situations. To prepare staff and family members to support AAC use and ongoing engagement with the AAC user, it is critical to connect AAC users and their caregivers with auxiliary services. Once such publicly funded auxiliary service is Staff and Family Consultation, a service available to all DDA waiver recipients. Staff/family consultation and training is provided by a licensed, DDA-contracted professional to family members and other service providers working with the AAC user to help them better meet the needs of the individual. SLPs can facilitate accessing this auxiliary service by including it in the recommendation letter that accompanies the AAC device request.
Additionally, SLPs can support AAC users by connecting them to informal AAC social gatherings such as Smooth Talkers and other informal supports that connect novice AAC users to rich opportunities for practice, mentorship and community.
The goal of the different levels of supports (i.e., support obtaining AAC equipment, training to family and staff members, and connection to informal AAC social groups) is increased utilization of AAC devices beyond the professional setting to more real-time use of AAC devices in a broad range of settings.
SLP: Speech-Language Pathologist
AAC: Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an umbrella term that encompasses the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language (Wikipedia, 2018)