How We Do It: Assessing AAC Skills and Competencies to Inform Intervention & Show Progress

May 15, 2017 by - 3 Comments

How We Do It: Assessing AAC Skills and Competencies to Inform Intervention & Show Progress
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It’s Better Hearing and Speech Month ( #BHSM) and we are highlighting the work of talented AAC SLPs. We’re so happy to have Georgia-based Vicki Clarke back, this time with Holly Schneider, to talk about a longstanding collaboration that more AAC teams need to know about. Vicki’s privHow We Do It: Assessing AAC Skills and Competencies to Inform Intervention & Show Progressate practice, Dynamic Therapy Associates, centers on AAC assessment and intervention. She works both with individuals and school districts, and serves children and adults with a variety of challenges and etiologies (e.g., motor disorders, memory, attention and learning difficulties, sensory impairment, neurological differences, syndromes and seizure disorders, congenital and acquired difficulties).Holly is a full time employee of Tobii Dynavox on the Clinical Content and Training Team.  She is responsible for developing AAC training materials; and educating teams, professionals and families on AAC applications and implementation. In this post, they tell us about the development of the second edition of the Dynamic AAC Goals Grid.

The Dynamic AAC Goals Grid-2: Assessing AAC Skills and Competencies to Inform Intervention & Show Progress

About 10 years ago, Holly Schneider and I were debating possible topics for an assistive technology conference.  It happened that both of us had recently been contacted by several SLPs and teachers looking for AAC goals to write on their student’s IEP.  We both had the same reaction:  we couldn’t offer examples of goals for students we didn’t know. Despite the wide variety of skills and needs seen in students who use AAC, we saw the same basic goals on IEPs:

  1. Student will use symbols to indicate a need to go to the bathroom.
  2. Student will choose desired items/activities for leisure.
  3. Student will choose a desired snack/drink.
  4. Student will greet teachers and peers using AAC.

From this discussion we began developing the Dynamic AAC Goals Grid, a tool that is now freely available in a few different formats. The Dynamic AAC Goals Grid-2 (DAGG-2) is a tool that allows you to assess and describe your AAC user across 2 domains, communication skill level and communicative competence.  Professionals look through a hierarchy of goals, across 4 domains, to determine the skills their AAC user has mastered, can accomplish with varying levels of prompting (support) or those that have not yet been attempted.

How We Do It: Assessing AAC Skills and Competencies to Inform Intervention & Show Progress
Using Janice Light’s targets for Communication Competency in AAC, goals are organized as Linguistic, Operational, Social or Strategic.  Linguistic goals are those that address language development and use, and include vocabulary knowledge (semantics), length of messages (syntax), use of word endings (morphology) and literacy skills.  Operational goals are those that address a person’s ability to operate and maintain their communication system.  These goals include targets such as turning your device on/off, changing the volume, and troubleshooting repair needs. Turn-taking, greeting and requesting clarification are social targets addressed. Finally, strategic goals help us focus on over-coming the functional limitations of the AAC system.  Goals in this area include gaining partner attention, requesting the device and actively engaging partners.The goals are organized by communication skill level, offering a set of goals at 5 different levels:  Emergent, Emergent Transitional, Context Dependent, Independent Transitional and Independent.  The abilities skill levels were informed by the work of Dr. Patricia Dowden, Ph.D. CCC-SLP.

In Vicki’s clinic, Dynamic Therapy Associates, we are required to assess our patients every 6 months.  In addition, we have to justify continuation of speech/language and AAC service by showing progress.  The DAGG-2 allows us to report percentages of achievement and compare this achievement over time.  It allows us to consider different paths for communication growth, target individually significant objectives, and to document a patient’s journey toward independence. Goals worksheets and periodic progress charts help us individualize goals for each patient.

This month a new way to access the DAGG-2 AAC goals has been introduced.  Tobii Dynavox Pathways is a free app on the iTunes store that offers training, lesson plans, tips and videos to help parents and professional implement AAC.  The Goals Grid is a part of this app. Now you can complete the goals grid, print an overview of the results or your complete, detailed grid.  An added bonus: the folks at Tobii Dynavox are including lesson plans for each individual goal.How We Do It: Assessing AAC Skills and Competencies to Inform Intervention & Show Progress

The Goals Grid was truly a passion project for us.  Vicki donated her time for the project with the hopes of offering supports to the teacher and families looking for help with their children. The Goals Grid has always been free and is now part of the free Pathways app.  We’re both excited that our little project has the opportunity to be shared by a larger community.  We hope you find it helpful as you work with your friends and family who use AAC!

Click here to access the Dynamic AAC Goals Grid-2 and supporting resources.

You can see some of Vicki’s previous posts here.


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This post was written by Carole Zangari


  • Vicki Clarke says:

    Hi Everyone, I thought I should clarify, although Tobii Dynavox publishes the Goals Grid, it is meant to be used for all AAC users on any system or light tech solution. It’s not a Tobii DynaVox specific tool. In our office, we use it for AAC users who have Tobii DynaVox products but also those using AAC apps like Proloquo2Go, AVAZ and Touch Chat, and other AAC devices like NovaChats and Accents. We even use it for students using PODD books and sign language. The Pathways app is more Tobii Dynavox specific because it uses Snap! Core First examples but the training tools and Goals Grid is really for everyone!

  • Catriona Pine says:

    Hi Vicki – I was just wondering if the Pathways app is available in Australia? We are wanting to use it with some students in Queensland. Thanks

  • Amy says:

    Hi – I was wondering would you use the DAGG assessment for students who do not have their OWN personal AAC device although use a school PODD at school throughout the day?

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