Which AAC Technology is Right for Your Students?

by VocoVision on February 10, 2017

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AAC technology for studentsAs a teacher, it’s difficult to watch your students with special needs struggle to fit in and enjoy school. Having communication difficulties can make that goal so much less attainable for them, but luckily there are assistive technologies out there that can help. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices combined with speech therapy can make a world of difference for those sweet students who just want to be fully present at school without barriers to communication standing in their way. There are many different technologies and therapies available, and sometimes it’s hard to figure out which one is the best one for your student. Here are some tips to help you navigate the often-confusing world of assistive technology.

A good first move is to put together a team of people so you can compare notes and get all the important information on the table: any therapists your student sees, speech language pathologists, an assistive technology specialist if you have access to one, teachers, and of course, your student’s family. But what are the right questions to ask? What information do you need? A handy tool often used in these cases is the SETT framework.

SETT stands for Student, Environments, Tasks, and Tools. By using questions as outlined by the SETT acronym, you can collaboratively gather all the information you need. Consider the following questions under each category from this Assisted Technology blog as you go through the information gathering process.


  • What is the area of instructional concern?
  • What are the student’s current abilities?
  • What are the student’s areas of need?


  • What are the significant characteristics of the student learning environment?
  • What is the physical arrangement of the learning environment?
  • What is the instructional arrangement in the learning environment, e.g., the classroom, small group, and/or learning stations?
  • What materials and equipment are students and teachers using?


  • What are the instructional expectations for all students in the learning environment?
  • What specific learning tasks are essential in the student’s achievement in this instructional environment?
  • Where are the gaps between student performance and instructional expectations?

Tools (both devices and services)

  • What tools (low and high tech) are being used currently to support the student(s)?
  • What additional tools does this student require to perform in this environment?
  • What strategies might be used to motivate the student’s performance?
  • How will these tools provide an equitable learning environment for the student(s) in meeting learning outcomes?

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary information, you and the rest of the team will need to interpret the data and decide what needs to be done to help your student, and how is the best way to go about it. Don’t forget that you will need to include in this plan time for teaching both the student and their family how to use the AAC device. Also remember that, after the plan is implemented, you will need to devote time to monitoring the student to make sure the plan is working and adjust accordingly. By following these simple steps, your student will be able to get the most out of their school experience.

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