State of AAC 2024

13 Feb 2024

Summary highlights from the world of AAC over the last year

A lot can happen in a year! From the presentations to the app features to the latest updates... sometimes it's hard to keep track of all the things going on around AAC. That's why we're collecting and presenting an annual summary called the State of AAC!

The State of AAC is a mix of looking backward and forward, reviewing what's happened, and trying to catch of glimpse of where things might be going. It's compiled from multiple sources, including participation from AAC users, families and specialists around the country and around the world. Scroll your way down to see what there still is to learn in the world of AAC!

Pop Culture

clip from TV show Bluey

We should probably preface all of this by warning that just because something makes the year-in-AAC cut doesn't mean it's got any official sort of seal of approval, just that it counts as AAC representation. I mean, we do have our limits (you'll have to find the Matt Rife Marlena clip yourself, sorry), but our goal is to provide a broad view to help everyone see what they may have missed rather than to do too strict a curation. Although if you want to make sure and stay on the safe side, there's always 2022's Bluey episode where Bingo uses an ad-hoc communication device that you can fall back on.

cast photo from the musical How to Dance in Ohio

Top of the list is probably when the latest season of The Mandalorian finally got back to what we all liked it for in the first place -- Baby Yoda (Grogu) adorably annoying that guy in the metal helmet. Grogu from the Mandalorian saying 'Yes Yes Yes' through a droid control interface The little champ managed his first vocalizations via droid suit, though I think it's clear he had a lot more he'd be capable of expressing than just yes/no. Brandon Sanderson also included a deaf character with a writing tablet in his new Princess-Bride-esque book, Tress of the Emerald Sea, with a swing at garnering sympathy for anyone whose speech device ever broke unexpectedly, and the new musical How to Dance in Ohio with its autistic acting cast offered some stage time to a part-time AAC user with a phone as their device.

book cover for A Day With No Words photo of Ahren Belisle on America's Got Talent

Beyond that, Ahren Belisle competed on America's Got Talent with his "Silent But Deadly" stand-up routines, Tiffany Hammond's new book A Day With No Words was released, and Jordyn Zimmerman continues to draw headlines for her education advocacy efforts. Not bad for AAC representation for 2023! Here's to hoping 2024 ends up with even more AAC representation (we're looking at you, Disney+).

In Memoriam

photo of Karen Owens

Karen Owens of We Speak PODD - "Karen's fighting spirit knew no bounds. She had an incredible heart and passion for children with special needs, especially those without a voice. Her passion led her to create 'We Speak PODD', an organization empowering families to help their children communicate. Through this remarkable initiative, Karen touched the lives of many families, who often feel unsupported and overlooked, by providing them with the tools and support they needed."

photo of Leila Nunes Additional tributes are listed on the ISAAC web site, including Leila Nunes, Rosemary Crossley, Judith Heumann, and David Yoder. We also wish to pay tribute to individuals who used AAC either part- or full-time, who passed away in 2023, and hope their determination and effort to assert their identities can continue to inspire others to follow suit.

AAC Systems

When it comes to something as important as communication, it's good to have options! Fortunately, there haven't been a lot of systems drop out of existence over the last year, which can trigger a difficult transition for some. Here are the most common AAC systems mentioned by our survey responses, listed in order of frequency.

TouchChat LAMP Proloquo2Go TD Snap Proloquo CoughDrop Grid

Our survey also asked which AAC systems people considered the most *impactful*, and we got the following responses.

TouchChat LAMP TD Snap Proloquo2Go Proloquo CoughDrop Grid PODD Weave Chat TD Communicator Proloquo4Text Avaz

How Do You Say

Sometimes we forget that there's apps, and then there's vocabularies -- and the two don't always directly intersect. Some apps support multiple vocabularies, and some vocabularies are offered on multiple systems, and out hope here at OpenAAC is to see more sharing and reuse over time, so it's also good to think specifically about which vocabularies are getting the most play right now, and figure out what they might be doing right. Check out any vocabularies you may not be familiar with from the list below!

WordPower Nancy Inman’s popular sequenced vocabulary is available on many apps Words For Life A motor-planning update to Unity is a popular 84-button vocabulary Crescendo Evolution Proloquo’s new vocabulary for a new app, and training tools to go with it Proloquo2Go Crescendo An updated vocabulary to keep the original app up with the times TD Snap Motor Plan TD Snap’s app has gained more fans since getting this new vocabulary Unity The original combination-based vocabulary is still used often Quick Core Open-licensed motor-planning layout in multiple grid sizes PODD Often printed out, some digital versions are also gaining traction Supercore An adaptive core-plus-categories vocabulary in 30 and 50-button sizes Vocal Flair Open-licensed, familiar sequenced vocabulary in multiple grid sizes Project Core Open-licensed 36-button core vocabulary meant as an easy starting place

Many vocabularies are also offered in more than one grid size. Here's the most common grid sizes reported by our survey respondents. 60-buttons was by far the most commong grid size, with 84-buttons coming in second. While there can be important reasons to start with a smaller grid size, it's important to remember the inherent limitations that come with them.

bar graph showing frequency of different grid sizes

Up and Coming

It's not always easy to keep up on where things are headed, but here are some of the topics and apps that bubbled up to the surface in the last year.

First, the apps and new vocabularies that people are discovering:

Avaz Avaz’s new expressive voices were a consistent callout this year Proloquo The combo of Proloquo and a parent coaching app is a welcome addition CoughDrop CoughDrop continued to expand its reach under new ownership at Forbes Weave Chat A new, fully free AAC app created by an SLP released last year Echo ACE Centre continues to release new access methods for AAC TD Snap Motor Plan The app’s new motor-planning vocabulary is proving popular

picture of a permanently mounted AAC board on a playground When it comes to things other than apps, there have also been some notable topics come up recently. Gestalt Language Processing is a popular topic, with differring opinions about degrees of adoption, and AAC vendors still looking for the best way to incorporate the concept. Playground AAC boards continue to grow in popularity as an additional communication tool in a setting that can be hard on many personal AAC systems.

The growth of AI has also begun making its way into the world of AAC, with hopes of personalized or natural-sounding word/phrase suggestions, and more robust language models. Literacy efforts continue to grow for AAC users, who historically have received less literacy instruction than their peers, and multi-language support is becoming a more-frequent ask for AAC app and vocabulary developers. There also continues to be a push across the AAC community to adopt more neurodiverse-friendly approaches to AAC instruction and implementation.

On top of all that, we asked people what "crazy" ideas they had for the future of AAC. Here are some of the most interesting topics and ideas submitted: Tactile keyboards, predictive inflections, synthesized voices with emotions, see-through screens, waterproof AAC, free-for-all AAC, coaching model to replace evaluations, cheaper flexible mounting, gaming to learn AAC, wearable AAC, scribble a sketch and AI makes it into a symbol, brain thoughts directly to words.

Who's Who

We can't all be as big as, say, Taylor Swift, but we do have our own Style of celebrities here in the world of AAC, gaining a Reputation for themselves, both during the school year and the Cruel Summer between. They know that AAC learning can be Delicate, but these folks are Fearless in doing their part to advocate, teach, train and share, with great ideas of how to Shake it Off and get Out of the Woods of complacency, all in the name of helping AAC users grow for themselves without any Bad Blood. AAC community at large is better for their part in it!

First, we have to mention the presenters of USSAAC's Speaker Connection. These are all AAC users, who offer their paid services to present at schools, conferences, seminars, etc. to help spread awareness and ensure that AAC representation comes from AAC users themselves, not just teachers and therapists.

screen shot from USSAAC Speaker Connection

The following people also received a significant number of mentions by our survey respondents.

Rachel Madel Co-host of Talking With Tech, onine content author and great presenter Lauren Enders Gonzales Compelling trainer of AAC strategies and leveraging online tools Kate Ahern A constant advocate for AAC-using learners and their independence Chris Bugaj Talking with Tech and ATTipsCast and publishing has got to keep Chris busy Alyssa Zisk Autistic part-time AAC user researches and presents regularly Kelly Fonner Experienced AAC consultant & trainer helps just about everywhere Gail van Tatenhove Influential presenter and trainer with deep AAC experience Caroline Musselwhite AAC advocate, content creator and trainer emphasizes literacy Carole Zangari Founded PrAACtical blog and continued online AAC supporter Angela Moorad Tracks most common AAC apps, reports on new features and how-tos

Additional people mentioned by our survey respondents: Abygail Marx, Aditi Sowmyanarayan, Kate Mclaughlin, Amanda Soper, Amy Donaldson, Anne Page, Beth Moulam, Bohospeechie, Brandon Eddy, Brian Whitmer, Christie Witt, David Beukelman, David McNaughton, Donnie Denome, Elisa Wern, Emily Diaz, endever* corbin, Gary Cumley, Hari Srinivasan, Jane Farrell, Jordyn Zimmerman, Judith Light, Karen Erickson, Kate Flaxman, Kathy Drager, Krista Howard, Lily Konan, Mai Ling Chan, Rachel Langley, Sarah Weber, Stephanie Valencia, Tiffany Hammond

A Site to Behold

It can be hard to know where to look for information on AAC! Here are some of the top-reported AAC sites and communities.

Talking with Tech PrAACtical AAC Stepping Into AAC NWACS Project Core Assistiveware Blog Call Scotland Omazing Kids impAACt Voices Ace Centre AAC Institute Communication Matters Communication Workshop

Facebook Groups AAC for the SLP | Ask Me, I'm an AAC User | QIAT | AAC & Gestalt Language Processing | AAC through Motivate Model Move Out of the Way | The AAC Connection | Hardcore AAC

Instragram Accounts Emily Diaz | bohospeechie | aac_inovations | allaccesslife | fidgets.and.fries | beautifulspeechlife | meaningful speech

Podcasts and Video Feeds Talking with Tech | ATTipCast | We Speak PODD Videos | AAC in the Cloud

Books Comprehensive Literacy for All Becoming an Exceptional AAC Leader

Square One

When you need a place to send folks who are just getting started in AAC, it's a good idea to check with others and see if anything new has cropped up that's worth sharing! Here are some of the most common suggestions from our survey respondents.

Stepping Into AAC Project Core Alt+Shift Education NWACS Tech owl AAC essentials AACcessible

AAC Acceptance

Respondents for our survey included AAC users, therapists, teachers, family members, and others in the AAC community. We wanted to try to get a general glimpse of how AAC is being received and treated, so we asked respondents the following questions.

Based on your experiences, how would you say most people receive or react to AAC users over the past year?

Pie chart showing survey responses

Based on your experiences, how would you say the people's perception of AAC users has changed over the past year?

Pie chart showing survey responses

Special Thanks

We had a lot of great insights provided as part of the State of AAC 2024 survey, and wanted to make sure and give a thank you to those who participated and requested recognition. Thanks you also to all the anonymous respondents for your help!

Scharnke AAC Library | Marta Pinto - Apela | Carla Nicholson | Will Wade, Ace Centre | Alexys Guerra | Terrie Logan | Sure, Michaela Ball | Loudoun County Public Schools | Jo Holmes - Mummy vs AAC and The AAC Connection | Cheri Dodge Chin, Super Power Speech | Alt+Shift | Lisa CanRaepenbusch, Aurora City Schools | Anne Page, Beautiful Speech Life | Candace Hayden | WIHD | Saskia Splane, TN AT Project | Trina Muich | Bridget Grenolds | Christine Baudin, M.S., CCC-SLP | Jonathan Lasko | Kauri Sue Hamilton School | Lakhotiyapi AAC | Beenleigh Special School | Brandi Wentland | A huge thank you so much who came before me

Thank You, Come Again!

We hope this State of AAC 2024 report has been useful for you. It was definitely fun and educational for us to put together! We know that the world of AAC will keep evolving, and our hope is that over time the expertise and perspectives that lead the way can spread more broadly and more uniformly, so everyone can benefit from the newest and greatest work happening different places throughout the world!

OpenAAC is a relatively new non-profit working to increase awareness, global access, and collaboration related to AAC. We plan to release this report annually, and we may have a few other tricks up our sleeves here in the next bit, so keep an eye out for additional news from us!

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