ACES 2023! We are back!


ACES 2020

Augmentative Communication & Empowerment Supports


ACES stands for Augmentative Communication Empowerment and Supports.

ACES is a program for young adult users (18+ years) of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) located on the main campus of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

ACES is a two-week intensive program followed by monthly meetups and ongoing social media engagement.


The program goals of ACES include:

  • Improve effective communication by AAC users.
  • Improve computer access by AAC users with current technology.
  • Empower AAC users to control their lives using a person-centered decision-making framework.
  • Increase the capacity of non-AAC users to engage and include AAC users in all activities authentically.
  • Support the families and friends of AAC users to encourage self-determination by the AAC users.
  • Build a community of AAC users to support each other and share experiences.
  • Equip AAC users with a strategy to communicate with the health professionals and provide informed consent or refusal.


Each ACES participant…

  • Is a young adult or adult who uses AAC.
    • May be concentrating on a “transition” such as school to work, home to community, etc.
  • Is currently using or has the potential to use a speech-generating device.
    • Devices (Tobii- Dynavox, PRC, Tablet-based, Phone-based, etc.)
    • Access methods (direct select, eye gaze, switches, etc.)
    • Communicative intent is demonstrated or assumed
  • Is able to participate in a full day of learning and work.
  • Might have a variety of educational or medical diagnoses.

[wm_button url=”” size=”xl”]Want to Volunteer?[/wm_button][wm_button url=”” size=”xl”]ACES Interest Form[/wm_button][wm_button url=”” target=”_blank” size=”xl”]ACES Application[/wm_button] Cost Expand

  • The cost for the AAC user participant and accompanying support person is a total of $3240. This fee includes tuition, room, and board.
  • There are a variety of possible funding sources.
    • Public funding through the Extended School Year (ESY) program, OVR, and Waiver funding may be possible.  The ACES program would need to meet a participant’s school, work or waiver service plan objectives.
    • We work with out-of-state participants to secure adequate funding.
    • Some participants pay tuition privately.
  • TechOWL at the Institute on Disabilities works to secure donations for limited scholarships. 


Location Expand

On the main campus of Temple University in Philadelphia.

Made Possible By Expand

ACES is funded by tuition.

We work with participants, families, and teams to establish a funding source as part of the acceptance process.

Extended School Year and Waiver funding are sometimes used for tuition. Some participants pay privately.

TechOWL at the Institute on Disabilities works to secure donations for limited scholarships.

History Expand

Developed initially in 1990 by Diane N. Bryen, Ph.D., ACES has adapted over the past 30 years while staying true to the mission of improved communication and empowerment in an inclusive community.

Today, we acknowledge emerging technologies and other changes in communication access for all.

Next Steps Expand

If you are interested in learning more or scheduling an entrance interview, please complete the interest form. We will be in touch.

If you are ready to apply (even if your payment arrangement are uncertain), please complete the online application by May 31, 2020.

Our entrance interviews may be in-person or via video conference.


Interested? Expand

Start the process by filling out this brief form.

[wm_button url=”” color=”b51b22″ size=”1″ icon=””]ACES 2020 Interest Form[/wm_button]


ACES Supports Expand

  • If necessary for access and/or functional needs, each ACES participant brings with them an additional support person. One person per participant enjoys housing with the participant in accessible on-campus housing at Temple University.
  • Other family members will need to secure nearby room and board.
  • ACES staff and volunteers maintain an adequate presence for the safety and security of everyone.

ACES Staff Expand


  • Administrative Coordinator
  • Licensed Speech-Language Pathologists
  • Assistive Technology Specialists
  • Computer Access Educators


  • ACES Alumnus Advisor (new this year)
  • Access Specialist (i.e., Occupational or Physical Therapist)
  • Empowerment Facilitators – various


  • University students for credit, clinical, or work experience
  • Professionals for continuing education or additional experience
  • Volunteers from the community
  • Intern Orientation

Typical ACES Day Expand

This ACES will be structured a bit differently from past years. Each participant will create their own class schedule from a catalog of offerings before the beginning of ACES 2020. Each participant will create a schedule to meet their personal goals in accordance with the requirements of their funding source, if appropriate. A preliminary ACES 2020 catalog will be available by March 1, 2020. Offerings will include:

  • Independent study individually with a communication coach (speech-language pathologist)
  • Group communication coaching (speech-language pathologist)
  • Individual device troubleshooting sessions
  • Interactive Empowerment Seminars
  • Classes – computer, resume building, yoga, etc.
  • Fun – swimming, movies, etc.

The participants’ day starts at 8 am and ends at 9 pm.

  • Breakfast together
    • Gather in a common space
    • Dietary considerations honored
    • Packaged, prepared and fresh foods
  • Morning Sessions
    • Dependent on the individualized schedule
  • Lunch at a nearby restaurant or food truck
  • Afternoon Sessions
    • Dependent on the individualized schedule
  • Dinner together
    • Sometimes at nearby restaurants
    • Sometimes at the dorm in a common area
  • Down Time & Fun
    • Variety of activities

Any parents, friends, and family members who are not actively supporting an ACES participant are encouraged to take part in separate and specially designed activities and presentations.

Communication Coaching Expand

Our group communication coaching is led by speech-language pathologists and supported by graduate students in speech-language pathology. While every ACES is different, here are some previous communication topics.

  • Functional Operation of AAC
    • AAC Backups
  • Social Engagement with AAC
    • AAC and social media
    • Small talk
  • Strategic Use of AAC
    • Getting Someone’s Attention
    • Arguing
    • Joking
    • Advocating
    • Role-Playing
  • Linguistic Considerations
    • Vocabulary Sets
    • Adult & Intimacy Vocabulary
  • Emotional Expression
    • Friends and Relationships
  • Distance Communication for AAC Users
    • Adapted Phones
    • Text Messaging

Computer Catalog Expand

While every ACES is different, here are some previous computer access topics:

  • Social Media
  • Safety and Privacy Issues
  • Emoticons
  • Google
  • YouTube
  • Playing on the computer (Spotify, Pandora, TV, etc..)
  • Jobs
  • Individual deep dives

Empowerment Catalog Expand

While every ACES is different, here are some previous empowerment topics:

  • Talking to Doctors
  • Following Your Dreams
  • Being a Leader
  • Healthy Relationships
  • Personal Emergency Preparedness
  • Self Defense
  • Directing Personal Care
  • Interviewing
  • Money Management
  • Know Your Rights
  • Canine Companions
  • Independent Living
  • Getting a Job
  • Transition Planning
  • Myths Related to Benefits and Work

Fun! Expand

While every ACES is different, here are some previous fun activities –

  • Pool Party
  • Scavenger Hunt
  • Adaptive Yoga
  • Visit Philadelphia
  • Museum Tour
  • Movies nearby
  • Nearby Pub / Sports Bar
  • Music

Family Topics Expand

While every ACES is different, here are some previous parent and family topics –

  • Supporting Letting Go (advice for transitioning your children to adulthood)
  • Daring to Dream – Parent’s Role
  • Making Assistive Technology from Common Materials
  • Troubleshooting Service Issues
  • Estate and Trust Planning
  • Self-Care
  • Parent Roundtable
  • AAC Backup Planning and Support

3 thoughts on “ACES 2023! We are back!”

  1. Hi there! I’m an SLP interested in participating. Is there an application to be a staff member for the duration? Thank you! Julie Casady

    • Hi Julie,

      There are not any open SLP positions for ACES 2020 at this time. We can contact you if anything comes up.

      Thanks, Kim


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