It’s Never Too Late to Reevaluate Your AAC Speech App


Recently, I’ve started working with a new patient. This gentleman had a stroke about six years ago and lost his ability to speak.

While I’m still in the process of learning about his preferences, needs, cognitive abilities, etc., I’ve already found out one crucial piece of information: upon losing his ability to speak, he was provided with a free app on his iPad…but he doesn’t use it.

I’ve also discovered that the reason he doesn’t use it is that he doesn’t understand the symbols and cartoonish figures the app provides. When I show him actual photos, though, he has a much higher accuracy rate of identifying his wants and needs.

This is a common story. Many individuals with communication difficulties are provided with AAC solutions that may not fully meet their needs, and often their caregivers aren’t aware that there are better alternatives.

People using AACThis recent experience brought to mind a very important question that family members and caregivers of people who cannot speak should ask themselves periodically:

“Should we reevaluate the speech impairment app we’re currently using?”

And my answer to that question is: “Absolutely!” It’s a great practice to periodically reevaluate the augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices or apps your loved one or patient is currently using.

If the person is struggling with their AAC device or app, or if they’ve given up on using it entirely, it’s never too late to explore new options. The fact is, AAC technology is continually evolving, with new devices, apps, and strategies emerging to better cater to diverse communication needs. What may have worked in the past might now be outdated or incompatible with an individual’s current abilities and preferences.

Two Key Criteria: Patient Fit and Training & Support

When you’re thinking about reassessing the situation your loved one or patient is in with regards to their use of AAC, there are two key criteria you need to think about: patient fit and the quality of training and support the company behind the AAC provides.

Patient Fit

The first step is to reevaluate the situation to determine if the fit between the device or app and the person is still or good one. In the following section below, I’ll give you a checklist of criteria you can use to examine this fit and, if a change is warranted, to give you some ideas about how to make a better choice for the person.

Reassessment of fit involves a comprehensive evaluation of the person’s communication goals, preferences, skills, and challenges. It may also involve consulting with AAC specialists, speech-language pathologists, or other professionals experienced in AAC assessment and implementation.

Through this process, it’s often possible to identify more suitable AAC solutions that better align with the individual’s unique communication profile.

Training & Support

However, it’s also crucial to recognize that effective AAC implementation goes far beyond simply providing a device or app; it also requires ongoing teaching, training, and support. That’s the second important element of the reevaluation process.

You might find multiple AAC devices or apps that would be a good fit for the person, but you also need to evaluate the quality of the initial training they provide to new users so they can get up to speed quickly.

Your loved one or patient may require additional support to become proficient in using their new AAC system effectively. This may include structured instruction, modeling, practice sessions, and troubleshooting to address any barriers or challenges encountered along the way. Do the devices and apps you’re researching provide these supports?

Ultimately, the goal of AAC is to empower individuals with communication difficulties to express themselves effectively and participate more fully in daily life. By remaining open to regular reassessment and embracing the latest advancements in AAC technology and intervention approaches, you can better support your loved one or patient in finding the communication solutions that work best for them. 

Reevaluating AAC

Now that we’ve talked about how important it is to regularly reevaluate the AAC device or app the person is currently using, let’s get into how to do that evaluation.

When reassessing the AAC device or app, it’s essential to consider a range of factors to ensure that the chosen AAC solution effectively meets the individual’s communication needs and preferences. Following are some key considerations. Consider this your evaluation checklist:

  1. Communication Goals and Needs: Start by identifying the individual’s communication goals and needs. What has changed since the AAC app/device was provided? What are the person’s current preferred methods of communication? What types of messages do they want to convey (e.g., basic needs, social interactions, medical needs)? Understanding these goals will guide your selection of AAC tools and strategies.
  2. Current Communication Abilities: What are the individual’s current communication abilities, including their expressive and receptive language skills, motor abilities (e.g., fine motor control for device manipulation), and cognitive abilities? The answers to these questions will help determine the level of support and complexity needed in the AAC system.
  3. Technology Preferences: What are the individual’s preferences regarding AAC technology? Some people prefer dedicated AAC devices with physical buttons, while others prefer touchscreen devices or apps on smartphones or tablets. Additionally, consider factors such as device size, portability, and durability.
  4. Access Method: What is the most appropriate access method for the individual? This could involve direct selection (e.g., touching buttons on a screen), scanning (e.g., using a switch to scan through options), or alternative access methods such as eye gaze or head pointing. Choose the access method that best aligns with the person’s motor abilities and preferences.
  5. Vocabulary and Symbol Set: What kind of vocabulary and what type of pictures, photos, or symbols will be relevant and meaningful to the individual’s daily life and communication needs? This may involve using life photos, customized symbols, or specific vocabulary sets tailored to the individual’s age, interests, and communication goals. You’ll probably want to choose a device or app that allows for customization.
  6. Language and Communication Skills: Does the AAC system support and provide opportunities for language expansion and growth?
  7. Social and Cultural Context: Take into account the individual’s social and cultural background, as well as their communication environment. Are there cultural factors that may influence communication preferences and interactions? If so, ensure that the chosen AAC solution respects and accommodates these factors.
  8. Training and Support: Does the system provide comprehensive training and ongoing support for both the individual and their communication partners (e.g., family members, caregivers, educators)? The company should provide instruction on how to use the AAC system effectively, troubleshooting of any technical issues, and promote communication opportunities across various settings.

By carefully considering these factors during the reassessment process, you can tailor AAC interventions to the individual’s unique communication profile, ultimately promoting successful communication outcomes and enhancing their quality of life significantly.

The App2Speak Speech App for iPad

If your loved one or patient has been struggling with their current AAC device or app – or if they’ve given up entirely on using it – I hope this post has provided you with some direction about what to do about the situation.

And if your reevaluation of the AAC the person is currently using suggests that you should look for a better alternative, I hope you consider checking out App2Speak. We’ve worked hard to build into our app some of the features most requested by people who cannot speak and their caregivers.

For example, the new patient of mine that I mentioned at the beginning of this post didn’t understand the visual elements of the app that he’d been provided because they were too symbolic and/or too cartoonish. When I showed him real photos of people and objects (like we use in App2Speak) however, he understood them much better.

That’s just one of the many features built into the App2speak app. It’s also highly customizable, and we provide free demonstrations and support if you have any issues with the app. To learn more about what App2Speak has to offer, check out the How It Works page or schedule a demonstration.