What is an AAC Assessment?

Assessment

Assessment is the first step to better communication. Assessment routes vary depending on your age and where you live. Contacting your local speech and language therapy services is generally the place to start. Children and young people may also start the assessment process through school services. You may be referred on to a specialist assessment service.

AAC assessment services are staffed by professionals who can assess, advise and make recommendations.

Process

An AAC assessment begins with the recognition that you have communication difficulties that might be helped by communication aids or systems. An AAC assessment ends with recommendations for you – and perhaps for your environment. How long this takes and how many people are involved depends on the complexity of your needs and abilities. Also, your needs may change over time and technology and techniques improve, so you may need to be reassessed – perhaps more than once.

Types of Assessment Services

There are four main groups of service providers

Specialised (England)

including independent ‘consultant’ level professionals

Specialist AAC Services may sit at local, regional or national levels. Regional and national services are currently provided by the statutory, voluntary or independent sectors.

These are regional services in England assessing 10% of the AAC population with the most complex AAC needs (see our section on Hubs). They will loan equipment for trial and provide equipment following an assessment (see section on equipment requests). They may accept reports from local services for people who meet the criteria in the service specification.

Local (England)

a team or an independent professional

The community, local authority or health based team of individuals and organisations who provide assessment and on-going AAC support to a disabled adult or child. These include specialist Speech and Language Therapists (SLTs) with AAC skills with allocated time to deliver a service.

Independent (England)

These are regional services in England assessing 10% of the AAC population with the most complex AAC needs (see our section on Hubs). They will loan equipment for trial and provide equipment following an assessment (see section on equipment requests). They may accept reports from local services for people who meet the criteria in the service specification.

Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland

These are regional services in England assessing 10% of the AAC population with the most complex AAC needs (see our section on Hubs). They will loan equipment for trial and provide equipment following an assessment (see section on equipment requests). They may accept reports from local services for people who meet the criteria in the service specification.

Suppliers

Suppliers that offer an AAC service generally provide only their own range of equipment. You should consider more than one device.

Referral

Anyone who needs AAC should be referred to an appropriate team or service as early as possible. A child or young person should be referred at as early an age as possible. Don’t wait for their speech to develop – evidence shows that the introduction of AAC does not stop children from talking.

For someone who has acquired disabilities, referral should be as soon it is clear their speech is deteriorating, unintelligible or absent. Even if their loss of speech is temporary, some strategies and tools may be helpful in the short term.

The first step is to contact your local service or an external assessment service. The service will need some specific information in order to plan an assessment:

  • How is the adult or child communicating now?
  • Are they using any AAC systems (paper-based, sign or VOCA) now?
  • Understanding of language
  • Access to communication tools and strategies
  • Information from any previous assessments

The AAC service can plan most effectively when they have information from all the professionals involved with the AAC speaker.

Who will be involved?

This will depend on the service carrying out the AAC assessment and what your needs are. Usually you can expect to see a speech and language therapist, an occupational therapist and/or a physiotherapist. You may also see a teacher, rehabilitation engineer or clinical scientist. You are central to the assessment process, along with your family and personal assistants.

Where should the assessment take place?

This depends on who is being assessed, but the assessment should take place in a quiet environment with limited distractions. For example, the service may find it useful to see you communicating in your own environment with regular communication partners. Other people may prefer to travel to an assessment centre where all the tools and strategies are available.

What happens in the assessment?

You can expect plenty of talking about your needs, and you should have the opportunity to try different tools and strategies for communication. It is not always possible to make a definite recommendation at the end of an assessment visit, but afterwards they may recommend that you trial some equipment. This is part of the assessment process as well.

When does the assessment end?

Once you have trialled some AAC equipment and strategies and everyone agrees, the service will recommend which tools and/or strategies they will provide for you. In some instances the equipment may be provided, but sometimes you may need look to education authorities or charitable funding.

What happens next?

Your AAC needs are likely to change over time, so you may need a new assessment in the future. This time, a re-referral request can be made, or it could happen as a matter of course. You may need to undergo some training to use any equipment provided by the AAC assessment service, local team or supplier.

This page contains important information, updates and links to relevant specifications, legislation and other documents on the commissioning of AAC services and equipment in England.

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