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Jump Start to AAC: Rethinking AAC Participation and Services

Jump Start to AAC: Rethinking AAC Participation and Services

This session will provide an introduction to Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems. We will bust common AAC myths such as the candidacy model and the expert model. We will discuss who can benefit from AAC and best practices. We will provide definitions for common terms you will hear throughout the conference such as Aided Language Input, and robust AAC. This session will also discuss language variety, bidialectalism, and bilingualism. Encouraging bilingualism and use of language varieties other than General American English, such as African American English and Appalachian English, in AAC services is not only best practice but also a matter of social equity. When practitioners deliver services through a mainstream lens that centers western ideologies, we deny opportunities to foster bilingualism and bidialectalism in individuals with complex communication needs. 'An individual's life experiences are impacted greatly by his or her own cultural and linguistic background' (Beukelman and Light, 2020, p. 25). Therefore, AAC assessment and interventions must be appropriately planned for and provided based on the individual’s cultural and linguistic background. Additionally, 'AAC teams must demonstrate cultural competence if they are to provide effective AAC services to individuals and families from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds' (Harris, 2015 as cited by Beukelman & Light, 2020, p. 26). We will discuss the different forms of AAC and how and why centering and understanding an individual's cultural heritage and language experiences inform our practices. We will identify and discuss barriers to accessing services based on our professional, clinical experiences and the AAC research literature. Lastly, this session will outline and discuss actionable steps that practitioners can immediately utilize to mitigate some of these barriers; discuss solutions such as utilizing a family-centered approach; and how to implement a culturally responsive approach to assessments, device selection, service delivery, and implementation of tools.


  • Emily Diaz


    Emily Diaz, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed and ASHA certified speech-language pathologist with a special interest in AAC. She has 7 years of experience supporting children & young adults with complex communication needs in the school setting. Emily shares free ideas & strategies for AAC implementation on her YouTube channel, as well as Instagram (@emilydiazslp). She also offers paid workshops, webinars, and consulting services through her private practice - Emily Diaz, SLP.

  • Cara Falade

    M.A., CCC-SLP

    Cara Falade, MA, CCC-SLP is an Ohio outpatient speech pathologist. Her current caseload ranges from 20 months to 47 years old. With over 15 funded AAC devices in the last 2 years, Cara is dedicated to helping individuals and their caregivers navigate finding the amplification for their voices. She shares all things speech & AAC on Instragram (@thebuckeyslp) as well as self care for professionals and her experiences being Black in a monotony field. She is a proud member of the National Black Association of Speech-Language and Hearing (NBASLH).

  • Sarah Gregory

    M.S. CCC-SLP

    Sarah Gregory, M.S. CCC-SLP is a Speech-Language Pathologist and works as an Assistive Technology and inclusive programming consultant in the Ithaca City School District in Upstate New York. She specializes in Augmentative and Alternative Communication in a public school setting with a focus on inclusion. Sarah has presented on these topics at national and statewide conferences. She shares ideas and strategies for AAC and teletherapy on her YouTube channel, as well as on Twitter and Instagram @SarahGregorySLP.

  • Karina Saechao


    Karina Saechao, M.A., CCC-SLP is an SLP, licensed in CA and KS. She holds a certificate as an assistive technology specialist and is a Ph.D. student at the University of Kansas. Karina’s research interests are in African American English, child language, AAC. Karina is the Founder & CEO of Golden Oak Speech Therapy, and specializes in AAC, AT, language, literacy, and caregiver & educator coaching.

  • Maria De Leon

    M.S., CCC-SLP

    Maria De Leon is a bicultural/bilingual Speech-Language Pathologist specializing in Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC). She received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and her Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology at San Francisco State University with a specialization in culturally responsive AAC practices. De Leon currently works at ATEC Goodwill of Orange County as an SLP specializing in AAC evaluations, trials, and training for various facilities and entities, including training for families, teachers, SLPs, and support staff to the greater Southern California area. She has 10+ years in the special education sector as a special education assistant, early interventionist, and response to intervention (RTI) teacher. De Leon manages the Instagram account, @code.switch.slp.

Learning Objectives

Identify and debunk common myths surrounding AAC.
Gain knowledge of best practices for effectively supporting individuals who can benefit from AAC.
Define key terms and different forms of AAC.
Define diaspora, bidialectalism, and bilingualism.
Describe the discrepancies between best practices for AAC service delivery and current trends that prevent equitable AAC services to Black and Brown children.
Identify three barriers for bidialectal and bilingual AAC users to obtain AAC assessments, services, and tools.
List three solutions for providing appropriate assessments, services, and tools. to bidialectal and bilingual AAC users.



15 minutesIntroductions to speakers and their caseloads
15 minutesSarah: Busting AAC myths
10 minutesCara: Definitions of common AAC terms
15 minutesEmily: Types of AAC and prompting hierarchy
5 minutesQuestions from the audience
5 minutesIntroductions and Disclosures (Karina & Maria)
5 minutesDefining key terms
5 minutesIntroduction to AAC
10 minutesCurrent Trends in AAC services and experiences with Black and Brown Children
15 minutesBarriers to receiving AAC services and devices
15 minutesAAC Solutions for Black and Brown children
5 minutesQuestion & Answer



Speakers - FinancialSarah receives a salary from the Ithaca City School District. Sarah receives income and honorariums from speaking engagements and online courses including Bright Ideas Media. Cara Falade receives a salary from a non-profit outpatient clinic in Columbus, Ohio as well as an honorarium from Bright Ideas Media for this course. Emily Diaz is the owner of Emily Diaz, SLP and receives payment for professional development, consulting, private practice services, and resources. Emily is an independent contractor with Meaningful Speech, LLC. Emily receives an honorarium from Bright Ideas for this course.Karina Saechao is receiving an honorarium from Bright Ideas Media for this presentation. Karina is a doctoral student at the University of Kansas and her research in African American English is funded by a research excellence initiative grant. Maria De Leon is receiving an honorarium from Bright Ideas Media for this presentation. She is a Co-Founder of bilingue AAC and an SLP for a non-profit organization in California.
Speakers - NonfinancialSarah Gregory is a member of ASHA and ASHA Special Interest Group 12 (AAC)Cara Falade has no non-financial relationships to disclose Emily Diaz is an ASHA and SIG 12 member. Karina Saechao is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), National Black Association of Speech, Language and Hearing (NBASLH), and ASHA SIGs 01, 12, and 14. Karina is the founder and CEO of Golden Oak Speech Therapy, A Professional Speech Pathology Corporation. Maria De Leon is a member of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA), California Speech Language Hearing Association (CSHA), and ASHA Sig 12.
Course - ContentSarah Gregory has no additional content information to disclose. Cara Falade has no additional content information to disclose. Emily Diaz has no additional content information to disclose. Maria De Leon has no additional content information to disclose. Karina Saechao has no additional content information to disclose.
Course - Financial Support & In KindThis course is being sponsored by SLP Toolkit.



This course is offered for 0.2 ASHA CEUs, Introductory Level, Professional Area, Professional Area

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