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Augmentative Communication

What is the Augmentative Communication Service (ACS)?

Augmentative Communication Service specializes in:

  • Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC); and
  • Electronic Assistive Technology (AT).

AAC means a system of:

  • strategies
  • adaptations
  • tools
  • devices

needed by people who either don't speak or whose communication can be so hard to understand that it handicaps them. 

A girl uses her eyes to control a computer to communicate with her occupational therapist.AAC can range from simple, "no-tech" or "low-tech" systems all the way to very complex (often "high-tech") systems.  Some people need AAC all the time and others only some of the time.  AAC methods can be used in addition to regular speech therapy to help maximize communication and some people may improve to a point where they no longer need AAC.  AAC is not limited to alternatives to speech; it can also involve alternatives to writing and other forms of interaction with individuals and the world.

Photo caption: 
A girl uses her eyes to control a computer to communicate with her occupational therapist.

Electronic AT means:

electronic devices or software that can help physically handicapped people use computers, telephones and other common electronic devices or to be more independent at home or work.

There are different levels and complexities of both AAC needs and AT needs.  The mandate of ACS is to focus on:

  • finding the best AAC systems for people with complex communication needs
  • finding the best adaptation methods, equipment and electronic AT
  • helping people learn to use their AAC or AT systems
  • helping families, teachers, therapists and others who work with our patients to  learn to help them make their AAC or AT systems most useful in their daily lives.

ACS also provides:

  • Education:  Consultation, workshops and literature is provided to help other therapists learn how to select and use AAC or AT systems for and with their patients.
  • Research:  Testing new kinds of equipment and giving feedback to manufacturers, or our engineer can create new technology if existing technology cannot do what is needed.  We may also do research testing the effectiveness of new products on the market.

Who we are

  • Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Occupational Therapists    
  • Rehabilitation Engineer
  • Administrative Assistant

Who we help

We see people of all ages who have complex AAC or AT needs.  As with other programs at SCCR, we have a provincial mandate so we serve the all regions of New Brunswick. We see inpatients who stay for long periods at SCCR, as well as day patients and patients who we see in their local environments Patients service is also offered via video conferencing sessions if this is the best possible option.  Periods of short, intensive treatment are also possible in certain cases.

Services we offer

The majority of our patients are seen on a consultative basis where we provide assistance to local rehabilitation providers, teachers and other professionals and caregivers who are working with the patients on a regular basis. Our assistance can be in the form of:

  • direct assessments and recommendations
  • follow-up and monitoring of progress
  • training clientspatients or their local teams
  • guidance to the local teams in developing treatment plans and goals 

When patients require only a Speech Language Pathologist or only an Occupational Therapist, we provide "single-service" sessions.  However, the majority of our patients have both communication and physical handicaps that require both a Speech Language Pathologist or only an Occupational Therapist working together.

When patients require technical solutions not already available on the market, our clinicians and our engineer can create new products or engineered modifications of existing products.  

What to expect

Before an evaluation or a follow-up visit, we gather information from caregivers, professionals and from the patient (if he is able to provide that information).  This involves a questionnaire and may include documents about past assessment and treatment, school education plans, medical reports and videotaping the patient.  Interviews or correspondence may take place with key people about past treatment, progress made and current status.  

After this information has been gathered, further interviews, observations and direct assessment of the patient are done. One or more AAC/AT methods/devices will then be tried and necessary problem solving involves all participants.  At the end of the sessions, our impressions, recommendations and plan are verbally summarized.  Followed by a written report which may include extra helpful materials (e.g., literature, videos or websites).

Evaluations may happen over several visits and in multiple locations. This ensures that solutions will work in the patient's real world.

Information on how and where to purchase equipment and sources of funding that may apply are provided to the patients.  Our team also assist in setting up and training for any equipment we have recommended if the local teams need assistance.

We expect caregivers and local professionals to participate in appointments. This is essential to make sure that all our suggested solutions will actually work for the patient.  ACS may be unable to proceed with a referral if local service gaps would prevent a successful outcome from our involvement.

How to refer

Referrals can be initiated by therapists, schools, parents, and other individuals, but must be signed by a physician.

Any referrals not accompanied by relevant medical and therapeutic documentation may be delayed in processing until these documents are obtained.  

When necessary, permission is obtained from patients or their families to communicate directly with professionals involved.  Once enough information is obtained to determine if the referral is appropriate for ACS, clinicians are assigned to the patient's case and a priority rating (see below.) is given.   

As each patient's name nears the top of the waitlist, the number, duration and location of appointments are determined and our Administrative Assistant coordinates scheduling with the patients and their local team.

ACS accepts referrals for children and adults with complex communication problems resulting from:

  • neurological conditions that temporarily or permanently make speech unsuccessful in some or all situations or environments.   (diagnosis such as Cerebral Palsy, Neuromuscular Disease, genetic syndromes, developmental delays and autism spectrum disorders, Spinal Cord Injuries, nerve injuries, brain injuries, strokes etc.)
  • deafness
  • physical injury to structures (e.g., tongue, palate) required for speech
  • Cancer or surgery affecting structures required for speech.

ACS also accepts, referrals for people who have no trouble speaking but who have:

  • significant physical handicaps that prevent them from using computers and other standard technology. or
  • who want electronic aids to daily living (also known as "environmental controls") to help them be more independent at work or at home.

ACS may also accept referrals for patients whose problems are not as severe or complex as those described above but whose local therapists are not familiar with assessing and making recommendations in the areas of AAC or Assistive Technology.   

  • Highest priority is given to referrals for patients who have life-threatening or other urgent conditions.


What is the cost of services

Costs for services are covered by the public system (Department of Health, NB Government).  However, any equipment we recommend is generally not free.  Sources of funding for special equipment can differ from patient to patient and may be covered by private insurance There are a number of other funding sources and we can help put you in touch with these.

Contact us

For more information on our services, how to refer, the status of your referral, or your appointment, please see our brochure or contact our administrative assistant at 506-452-5556.  General inquiries and mail may be directed to:

Attn.: Augmentative Communication Service
Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation
800 Priestman Street
Fredericton, New Brunswick
E3B 0C7

Phone: 506-447-4214
Fax: 506-447-4160

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