Monday, April 27, 2020

Occupational Therapists and AAC

Hey Tek-ninjas! So this post goes out to my fellow Occupational Therapists. It's a call to action.

As a Solutions Consultant, for the last two years I've had the pleasure to work with so many different OTs, in almost every work environment. OTs are doing some really amazing work, and y'all make me proud to be an OT. However, I've also been surprised by the number of AAC interventions happening in schools and clinics where an OT is not consulted or involved.

Obviously, the system is geared to make AAC the domain of Speech Therapists. I am not suggesting this should be different. SLPs are experts in language pathology. Language is their wheel-house. And the medical insurance model recognizes that fact, making them the gate keepers of funding.
However, I so often see SLPs trying to navigate complicated access issues where an OT presence would be helpful. These access issues include visual processing issues, positioning issues, organization issues, mounting issues, as well as interface issues.

No shade for my SLP friends, but I don't think these areas are typically a part of their training. But they are a part of our training. We are trained in Activity Analysis. Those issues are in our wheelhouse. And if an "end-user" cannot access their AAC device, it becomes irrelevant how good the communication system is.

Functional language is often intrinsic to maximizing occupational performance. It impacts so many of our domains, and when it works, our clients have better outcomes. Conversely, when functional language is missing, our clients have decreased occupational performance.

When OTs and SLPs work collaboratively to support our client's use of AAC interventions the outcomes enrich both speech and occupational therapy, with gains in all occupational performance domains. Everyone wins.

For those of you looking for some direction I encourage you to take a look at the HAAT model offered by Cook and Hussey. It dovetails nicely with so many of our Occupational Performance models that I suspect it would be a good guide post for any clinician. I found this article to be interesting, and it does a great job connecting HAAT and Occupational Therapy. Discerning learners will note that the book this article is from is Turkish. I posted it due to it's broad overview, it's relatively recentness, and that it's NOT behind a pay-wall.

Finally, if you are an Occupational Therapist, and you have a client on your caseload who has AAC, I encourage you to reach out to your SLP colleague and offer to help with access issues. Also, contact the local sales rep, and ask them for training on the hardware and software. You needn't reinvent the wheel. Leverage that resource. Once you learn the basics of the equipment, and pair that training with your clinical reasoning, I believe you will be able to elicit significant occupational performance gains for that client.

Also... wash your hands!

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