Talking With Tech AAC Podcast

Join speech-language pathologists Rachel and Chris as they discuss supporting complex communication needs with alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) and assistive technology!

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Wednesday Apr 03, 2024

This week, Chris interviews Daniel O’Conner and Bradley Haven of All Access Life! All Access Life is a nonprofit that showcases the latest trends and movements in adaptive products and assistive technologies on their website Daniel & Bradley share about how they met when Daniel was Bradley's Aide in high school (Bradley has nonverbal Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy), how they came to decide to create a nonprofit together, and how they developed their mission to share information about adaptive products. They also discuss Bradley’s AAC journey and how the technology has progressed from the switches Bradley used as a teenager to the current eye tracking he uses on his TD Pilot device.
Before the interview, Rachel shares about a family who had a very strong emotional reaction to having their child’s voice changed from a child’s voice to a teenager’s voice, and why we need to include the family and give lots of advance warning if we want to make a change to voice output for maturity purposes.
Key Ideas this Week:
🔑 We should try and spread the word about current accessibility gaming options, like Copilot with the Xbox Adaptive Controller, that allow people like Bradley to play video games.  Accessable gaming opens up social opportunities and allow users to engage with friends and family in new ways!
🔑 A lot of companies don’t think about the fact that people with disabilities use their product. Big companies like Microsoft embracing inclusive design with their Xbox Adaptive Controller helps move the field forward, but there is more work to be done!
🔑 Bradley says “nothing about us, without us,” meaning he wants companies who create products to get feedback from actual people with disabilities at every step of product creation.
🔑 Playing video games in schools shouldn’t be a carrot at the end of a difficult task, but rather something woven in (e.g. tallying up classroom scores on Rocket League to practice addition) to make learning more engaging.
Links from This Weeks Episode
Miles Harvey - Esports Research and Its Integration in Education (Advances in Game Based Learning)
How to Use Copilot on Xbox

Wednesday Mar 13, 2024

This week, we share Rachel’s interview with Breea Rosas! Breea is a school psychologist who works with educators on how they can implement neurodiversity affirming practices and neurodiversity affirming psychoeducation! Breea shares about the neurodiversity affirming approach and three key areas she works with educators and practitioners to address: 1) What assessments are we choosing; 2) How are we writing assessments; and 3) What are we communicating to the families in meetings?
Before the interview, Chris shares his discomfort with using descriptions that label people as “typical” when the concept of “average” does not really capture the nuances that make up a person and could even be reductive.
Key Ideas this Week:
🔑 Breea always writes reports as if the child will read it in 10 years, and she asks herself “How would it make them feel?”
🔑 We should be thoughtful about the assessments we are choosing. If you know, “Kids with ADHD, they are always bombing assessment X,” then consider giving a different assessment! You don’t always need to get the same tests to every student.
🔑 Parents have a lot of voice in IEP meetings - if as a parent, you hear a goal that doesn’t align with your philosophy, you can say, “This doesn’t align with our goals as a family. We don’t agree with this, we want something more creative.” As a parent. if something feels wrong, you should say something!
Links from This Week’s Episode
“The Myth of Average” Tedx Talk:
Neurodiversity Affirming School-Based & Consulting Practitioners Facebook Group
Autism Level Up:

Friday Mar 08, 2024

This week, Rachel interviews Kelley Coleman, speaker, author, and advocate! Kelley talks about her family’s AAC journey and her role as the mother of Aaron, a complex communicator in the 4th grade who uses AAC to communicate. She shares about her new book, Everything No One Tells You About Parenting a Disabled Child, as well as some of the high- and lowlights of her family’s AAC journey, including when Aaron’s school SLP suggested he go from high-tech AAC to a picture flip book!
Before the interview, Rachel shares about turning a client's questions about her microphone into a naturally occurring communication opportunity about podcasting - that also supported his independence!
Key ideas this week:
🔑 The goal shouldn’t bet just be communication for an AAC user, it should be autonomous communication. Not every student can communicate independently, but every AAC user can learn to communicate autonomously (e.g. share what they want to say, when they want to say it). Rachel was against the flip book because, among other reasons, Aaron wasn't physically able to use it independently. 
🔑 Kelley was told by her school SLP, “The only way Aaron will learn to communicate is if you use this flip book with 100% fidelity.” Kelley had so many responsibilities at the time, she couldn’t be with Aaron at every moment, and it made her feel like she was going to fail before she started. You have to meet parents where they are at and make modeling sustainable - something small every day is better than being so overwhelmed that you don’t even start! 
🔑 People who support AAC users should always try and keep an open mind in areas where they are not familiar.  Often, when a person can’t do something, it isn’t  because they are incapable - it’s because we haven’t supported that skill well enough yet!
🔑 Kelley says, as a parent, you should always be cognizant that the members of your IEP team may be providing services to your child for months (or even years) after that IEP meeting. It doesn't always make sense to yell at someone who is going to be providing services to your child for months (or even years) afterwards.
Visit to listen to previous episodes, find new resources, and more!
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Thursday Feb 29, 2024

This week, Rachel interviews Heidi Rabe, an SLP who specializes in supporting AAC users with complex bodies who use switches and scanning to communicate! Heidi shares a wealth of information about scanning and switches, including how to evaluate if a student needs a switch, working with PT/OT to find the right switch spot, using partner-assisted scanning, and more!
Before the interview, Chris and Rachel discuss a question from a listener about a student who is “adding random words” (and how the least dangerous assumption is that it’s purposeful and meaningful, and we should get to the bottom of it)!
Key ideas this week:
🔑 When Heidi is considering scanning and switches for a client, she thinks about whether they can reliably select from the size array that they need in order to communicate. Also, are their motor skills reliable? Are they having difficulty selecting symbols, even with a keyguard or touch guide?
🔑 Partner-Assisted Scanning is a scanning strategy where a partner verbally offers choices at a consistent rate, and the AAC user indicates what word they want. PAS allows for scanning without the time constraints that exist when presenting choices on a speech-generating device. There is usually a book that tells the partner what choices to say, and in what order. That way, the partners are consistent every time, which allows the AAC user to anticipate what words are coming. See a video on it here.
🔑 When you are using auditory scanning on a speech-generating device, you want the preview voice to be very different from the speaker voice.  Otherwise, communication partners get confused and respond to the wrong voice. Also, ideally you also want the preview voice to be quieter, and to be transmitted through a personal speaker.
🔑 When doing Partner-Assisted Scanning, Heidi gives the option of “None of those” as the last option. Similarly, after they make a selection, you can offer “I have more to say” “That’s all I have to say” and “Oops, that was a mistake” as choices.
Visit to listen to previous episodes, find new resources, and more!
Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at!

Thursday Feb 22, 2024

This week, Chris has a discussion with Caitlin Armstrong, an SLP in New Hampshire who contacted Chris asking about writing up an AAC Initiative proposal for her K-5 school district! Chris breaks down how she should approach the mission statement, ideas for making a more persuasive argument, and things to avoid (e.g. too much research up front).
Before the interview, Chris and Rachel talk about the AI Reading Coach at It is similar to the Reading Coach that is part of the Immersive Reader tool embedded in Microsoft Word, and allows people to practice reading with someone analyzing their speech in real time!
Key Ideas this week:
🔑 If you are writing an AAC initiative for AAC in your district, start with a mission statement about robust language and what your district believes in. If you start with a statement everyone agrees with and lay out the steps from there, you can get more buy in from the start!
🔑 Chris recommends breaking up AAC implementation into four prongs: Mindset, Training, Coaching, and Tools.
🔱 Mindset - The mindset we need to have is everyone can learn language, and if we give them the right tools and time, they will learn it.
🔱 Training - If training is going to happen, there may not be enough time in the instructional day to add on additional time for staff training. There might need to be substitutes or other resources included to help staff attend the training.
🔱 Coaching - Once you have given your trainings, you need to follow up with more direct coaching on how to provide the services. Admins don’t always think of coaching as separate from training, but the distinction is essential. Coaching can be as brief as a few minutes to reflect after a lesson if you are already in the classroom.
🔱 Tools - You can include a proposal for high tech robust AAC, with an alternate proposal for light tech (e.g. core boards) supports and/or a mix of the two. Ideally, you would have high-tech devices for teachers and staff as well as students who need AAC.
🔑 You can include some links to research about AAC in your proposal, and you want to have that information your back pocket, but you don’t want to go too heavy with research up front. Focus more of your time first on, “We know this is good for kids, you can be assured there is thought behind this and it won’t just be thrown in room, and there will be training and coaching for the team.”
Visit to listen to previous episodes, find new resources, and more!
Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at!

Thursday Feb 15, 2024

This week, Rachel and Chris continue their discussion about the highlights and takeaways from ATIA 2024! They share some of their favorite presentations and poster sessions from Lauren Enders, Brenda Del Monte, Bruce Alter, Tina & Mateo Moreno, Karanveer Singh, EdTech, and more!
Key Ideas this Week:
🔑 The Joy Zabala Fellowship is an organization that supports early career professionals working with students with disabilities by connecting them with a seasoned mentor. The mentee and mentor work together to strengthen the skills of the mentee and, afterwards, to share what they learned with the larger stakeholder community.   
🔑 At a session on AI, Chris asked Bruce Alter if we should still be teaching students to code or if we should only be teaching them to use AI to write the code for them. Bruce replied that “not an either/or question, it’s an ‘and’ question.” Students need to learn to code, and also to effectively use AI to write code. A student can’t understand what code the AI has given them or correct bugs if they have no idea how to code themselves.
🔑 EdTech is a session where people ask questions and then the group splits up into different parts of the room to have breakout discussions on some of the topics posed. This year, Rachel really enjoyed discussing supporting creativity in education. Rachel utilizes a lot of creative arts in her therapy activities. It’s nice, because the client is motivated to be creative and the family gets to see what they made afterwards.
🔑 One theme at ATIA this year was the Specific Language System First Approach, which was created by Chris himself! Chris has recently created an online class about the specific language system first approach - learn more here!  
Visit to listen to previous episodes, find new resources, and more!
Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at!

Thursday Feb 08, 2024

This week, we share Part 1 of Chris and Rachel’s recap of their recent trip to ATIA 2024! Chris and Rachel discuss a recent change to ATIA’s venue, share resources and takeaways from the conference, talk about what they covered in their own sessions, and more!
Key Ideas this week:
🔑 A lot of discussion at ATIA was about “Assistive Technology Myths and Facts” from the Office of Special Education Programs and the National Educational Technology Plan for 2024. They could be helpful as tools to demonstrate what you are sharing about AAC is supported by the federal government.
🔑 At his presentation, Lance McLemore shared about fear and anxiety using his device with unfamiliar people. For an AAC User, they don’t always know if the other person will do things like provide sufficient wait time. If you support an AAC User, be cognizant that an unfamiliar communication partner could be a possible source of stress.
🔑 Chris got to connect with Amanda Hartman, who is the author of two children’s books about AAC, “AAC Rhyme Time” and “I Talk in Different Ways”.  It could be used, for example, to introduce a classroom to AAC, build phonological awareness, or support literacy!
🔑 One thing to look into if you work with students - are the accessibility settings enabled or disabled by default on student computers and devices? Many students need things like text-to-speech, but enabling it requires several hurdles through the IT department (or they are totally locked out).
Visit to listen to previous episodes, find new resources, and more!
Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at!

Wednesday Jan 31, 2024

This week, we share our interview with Mercy Wolverton! Mercy is a student at George Mason University who learned how to use her 3D printer in high school during a senior project seeking to solve real world problems! Mercy shares some of the websites and resources that she used to learn how to print in 3D, and how you can get started as quickly and inexpensively as possible!
Before the interview, Chris and Rachel briefly tease takeaways from their time at ATIA, and talk about a recent email from Brian Whitmer about a google form about the state of AAC in 2024.
Key Ideas this Week:
🔑 Mercy says, when you are learning 3D printing, don’t be afraid of mistakes! It can take several tries to figure out how to make something with a 3D printer, and approaching these mistakes with a growth mindset can help us think of it as a learning opportunity!
🔑 There are 3D printers that are available to use for free at universities, schools, and libraries. If there is someone there who knows how to use the printer, they may be really helpful troubleshooting problems using it.
🔑 Mercy created a website for the work she has done at On her site, Mercy shares about her coding and 3D printing projects and some of her interests. Chris shares why he loves that idea, and why more people should create a website to showcase their interests and projects.
Links from the Episode
3D Printing Resources: Thingiverse (, Tech Owl (, & Makers Making Change (
Brian Whitmer on TWT discussing Open AAC:
Open AAC’s State of AAC survey, collecting feedback on the state of AAC over the last year

Wednesday Jan 24, 2024

Trigger Warning: This week’s banter includes some descriptions of trauma. If you would prefer to only listen to this week’s interview, please skip ahead to 27:19.
This week, Chris interviews Aaron Marsters, an Assistive Technology Instructional Systems Specialist for Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA)! Aaron shares about his role supporting the assistive technology needs of students on military bases across Europe, in his case, particularly in Germany. He shares ideas about AI and AAC, ways they collaborate to share implementation across Europe, and how they have adopted the Specific Language System First approach on bases across Europe!
Before the interview, Rachel tells a heartbreaking story about one of her clients who is currently in a child psychiatric ward. Her client is an AAC User, and Rachel shares about how the child has been mistreated despite the family’s best efforts to help. Chris and Rachel share their collective worry for Rachel’s client and their desire for his treatment to improve.
Key Ideas this Week:
🔑 We need to look at how we can better educate staff at medical facilities where people can be detained, like psychiatric wards, on how to work with people with complex communication needs and how to better support the needs of autistic people. We need to have an approach of curiosity instead of fear when someone is a multi-modal communicator, especially if they have a history of aggressive or self-injurious behavior.
🔑 When a complex communicator arrives within Europe’s DoDEA schools on military bases, Aaron makes sure that there are licenses of LAMP:WFL and multiple licenses of AAC Language Lab for each student. Then, the AT and school teams look at what stage learner the AAC user is and they go over activities and lessons the school can use to support that student’s AAC and language development.
🔑 If Aaron’s AT team tries something for one school, they take what worked and share it out with everyone else within the DoDEA European schools. There is a central website where best practices and implementation strategies are shared for every European DoDEA school!
Visit to listen to previous episodes, find new resources, and more!
Help us develop new content and keep the podcast going strong! Support our podcast at!

Thursday Jan 18, 2024

This week, we share TWT's 300th Episode/1 Million Downloads Celebration! The whole TWT team (Rachel, Chris, Luke Padgett, Michaela Ball, and Monica Halchishick) gathered virtually with some of the coolest people we know (i.e. listeners and previous guests) to chat with us about AAC as we celebrate our our recent 1 millionth download! The TWT team and listeners share memories of making the podcast, stories of how the podcast has influenced their life, favorite strategies, possible future episode topics, and more!



Join AAC experts Rachel Madel and Chris Bugaj as they dive into a weekly discussion about all things AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication). Every episode they deliver practical resources, clinical guidelines and relevant research to help clinicians better utilize technology for individuals with complex communication needs.

Episodes include interviews with industry thought-leaders, clinicians, parents, researchers and app developers to keep you on the pulse of the educational technology scene and better support communication through the use of technology. 

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