Early AACtion: Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication with the Birth to Five Population

Several myths about using Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) with the birth-five population have been dispelled through research in the field of speech pathology. Early introduction of AAC has shown a positive impact on verbal speech, successful communication, and overall independence.

Learning objectives are as follows:
1. Attendees will briefly define AAC and some of its key components, as well as highlight the basic differences/give examples of a high tech/low tech AAC system.
2. Attendees will be able to dispel three “myths” about introducing an AAC system with birth-to-five children with language impairments and explain the benefits of introducing such a system as early on as possible.
3. Attendees will understand the concept of “Aided Language Input” and be able to explain its importance to a child’s development of language with an alternative communication system.
Early AACtion: Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication with the Birth to Five Population - Handout Early AACtion: Using Augmentative and Alternative Communication with the Birth to Five Population - Additional Handout

Meghan Reitz

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Meghan Reitz

M. Ed., CCC-SLP

Meghan Reitz is an SLP working at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for four years. She received her Master’s in Speech Language Pathology from the University of Virginia in 2012. She has always had a passion for working with the pediatric population, which continues to grow through her work at Children’s Hospital’s outpatient, long term care unit and assistive technology center. She has been a member of the AT team since 2013 and has assisted in AT Recipes for Success mini-grant program and planning two CHoR AT Symposiums to provide education and collaboration for community therapists. She has presented at several regional, state, and nation-wide conferences on the topic of AAC and caregiver training. She completes evaluations and family trainings for children and adults who require augmentative and alternative communication to communicate. She also enjoys working with a very diverse population and has created several caregiver handouts in Spanish to assist with carryover of device implementation at home. She values the importance of training and providing education to caregivers in order to empower families to target communication at home and anywhere on-the-go.

Cary Hastings

Cary Hastings

M. Ed., CCC-SLP

Cary Hastings received her B.A. from Randolph-Macon College in 2008 and earned her M.Ed. in Communication Disorders from The University of Virginia in 2012. She has worked as a Speech-Language Pathologist at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU for four years, serving the birth to 21 population who present with a range of diagnoses and communication disorders. She specializes in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) usage and serves on the Assistive Technology Core team, providing transdisciplinary AAC evaluations, patient and caregiver training, and ongoing treatment in this area. She coordinates the hospital’s grant-funded ‘Ready, Set, Read’ program which provides books and therapy materials to patients to help families carryover therapy targets at home. Other areas of professional interest include working with children with pragmatic language needs and providing parent coaching for early language stimulation. When she is not working with children, she enjoys running, live music, and being outside with her husband and their yellow lab, Bedford.

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