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  • Writer's pictureStacy Crouse

AAC in Teletherapy: A Guide to Getting Started

If you are anything like I was when starting teletherapy, there was a lot to learn and figure out before jumping in. I was determined to maintain the same engagement and effectiveness as in-person sessions.


I soon came to find that with the right tools and strategies, teletherapy is just as dynamic and rewarding. Even from my computer, I am still dancing, blowing bubbles, and playing with toys. This made me love teletherapy even more!


I began to question my teletherapy skills the day I decided to introduce Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to a client. I was so excited to discuss AAC with the family, but as I lay in bed that night, I started to worry about what the sessions would actually look like. I knew I had to change my mindset and get creative once again!


From then on, each session became an exploration and no two looked the same. Eventually, she received a personal device and our setup had to change again. As I worked with more clients using AAC, I realized just how much variation there could be.


Teletherapy Setup for Sessions with AAC

After extensive research and experimentation, I finally feel confident in what AAC sessions look like for teletherapy. Here are some tips on how to get set up for your sessions as a teletherapist.


Equipment

Your primary setup requires your desktop or laptop computer and a reliable connection to your client or student. To optimize your setup, consider adding a second monitor, document camera, iPad, or additional devices equipped with AAC programs. A second monitor is helpful for managing your resources and having multiple windows open with some extra space.


The equipment setup for an SLP providing teletherapy for a student using AAC

Using an iPad or another device loaded with AAC apps is beneficial for modeling and interaction. To share low- or high-tech AAC materials in real-time, try a document camera or a webcam. A client or student who already has a personal device can also use a document camera to share it with the SLP.


An SLP engaging with a student in a teletherapy AAC session a camera to see the student and another camera to see their AAC device.

Screen Share

If you are already a teletherapist, you probably know just how useful sharing your screen can be for sessions. Screen sharing is available across multiple teletherapy platforms and opens up many options for incorporating AAC through core boards, computer applications, and online software.


Core Boards

Share digital core boards via PDFs or interactive ones using Boom Cards or slide presentations.


Computer Applications

Some of your favorite AAC programs can be downloaded directly to your computer, and there are several free options for families that might need them. Download programs like Coughdrop or TouchChat Discover directly to your computer and share your screen.


Using the remote control feature allows your clients to interact with the program if they do not yet have it at home.


An SLP using Coughdrop in a telepractice AAC session by screen-sharing

Editing Software

Many high-tech AAC apps also offer online editing software. If you have access to TouchChat ChatEditor or PRC’s PASS, you can share the screen so the client has a complete view of the program in your sessions.


Mirror iPad

Using a Mac, you can easily mirror an iPad to share with clients via AirPlay or cable. If you're not a Mac User, a secondary app can be installed to share the iPad screen. In Zoom, you'd just select "iPhone/iPad via cable" (or via AirPlay) in the advanced options, as shown below.


a screenshot of how to mirror your iPad in a teletherapy session using Zoom

Once the iPad is mirrored to show the app (TD Snap® by Tobii Dynavox in the example below), the screen is shared so the student can see the app, too. Mirroring an iPad is a great option if you already have a device loaded with AAC apps.


an AAC iPad app being screen mirrored in a teletherapy sessoin

iPad applications

Using the mirror iPad feature (built into platforms like Zoom), your client can see your tablet on their device, which is perfect for modeling! If the student’s device supports remote control, you can allow them to interact with the program even if they do not have it on their own device.


It can be difficult to model on the iPad if the child cannot follow your movements, so here are a couple of ways around that:

  • Setup Gestures: Using Assistive Touch you can set gestures so a pointer is visible each time you click!

  • Annotate: Draw, circle, or stamp for a visual of where you are clicking, such as the yellow stars that were annotated on the "finish" and "play" buttons. In this example, stars have been annotated on TouchChat.


An SLP annotating TouchChat in a teletherapy AAC session

If you're thinking, “But what if I don’t have these apps on my iPad?” try reaching out to the AAC representatives in your area for access to programs or applying for their free trials/downloads.


Document Camera

If you are already using a document camera or a second camera to share materials with your clients, this is another way to share both low- and high-tech AAC through teletherapy. This can be as simple as a cheap webcam or using your phone!


An SLP using a document camera to show a low-tech board in a teletherapy session

Meeting Background

Virtual backgrounds are ideal for clients working on single pages of a device or using core boards. Make it your background so you can easily point and model while they follow along at home. Grab a photo of your core board (such as this one from Proloquo2Go) and upload it as the background under your video settings. Be sure to mirror your background so that your client can view it clearly on their end!


An SLP using a core board background during a teletherapy session

Introducing AAC in teletherapy used to feel overwhelming. However, with the right tools and strategies, you’ll find each session to be unique and full of opportunities. The myriad of possibilities allows you to make sessions engaging and effective for each of your families.


And once the technology aspects are good to go, get tons of ideas for teletherapy AAC activities!


a photograph of Alexis Fink, a certified SLP providing teletherapy

Hi! I’m Alexis– a virtual assistant and licensed speech-language pathologist.

Since graduating from Duquesne University, I have been a practicing pediatric SLP in Iowa, Maryland, and North Carolina.


I enjoy working with the DHH population, early language, and AAC users. Most recently, I put my passion for creating, organizing, and helping others reach their goals into starting Speech Savvy, LLC - a virtual assistant for SLPs. 


Outside of work, you can find me wherever there is sunshine! My husband and I currently live in Cary, North Carolina and spend our weekends redecorating, trying new coffee shops, and going for walks. I love traveling, reading, eating at new restaurants, and sitting on the beach.


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