Augmentative and Alternative Communication and the IEP
***Please note these are suggestions. All IEPs MUST be individualized to meet the unique needs of each student.
If a student needs Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), then it is important for that information to be in the IEP. This ensures that the student will have the communication supports they need to take part in education. This also helps to ensure everyone on the student’s team will have some basic insight into the student’s communication and the system they use.
Is AAC considered Assistive Technology?
Yes, AAC is Assistive Technology as per the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. IDEA Sec. 300.5 defines assistive technology as “any item, piece of equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of a child with a disability. The term does not include a medical device that is surgically implanted or the replacement of such device.” (https://sites.ed.gov/idea/regs/b/a/300.5)
When is AAC considered educationally necessary?
AAC is considered educationally necessary when it is required for a student to access the curriculum and participate in public education. In most cases, if a student has complex communication needs and uses AAC, then these supports are an educational necessity and must be included in the IEP.
Are schools required to buy a student’s AAC device?
- If AAC is written into the student’s IEP, then yes the district is required to provide the system/device to be in compliance.
- In some states, if the district buys the device with district funds then the device does NOT belong to the student themselves. If the student moves away or graduates, the district may keep the device because they own it. Some states allow districts to access specialized funds to buy equipment. In these cases, the ownership of the device depends on the funds used. In Pennsylvania, this is through the School-Based ACCESS Program.
- A district CANNOT require a family to use insurance to buy a device that is educationally necessary for a student. The family does have the right to use their insurance and then the device is 100% owned by the student.
- More information on funding a device in Pennsylvania
When should a student have their AAC available to them?
- A student’s AAC should be available to them at all times. Students need to be able to work on their communication skills throughout their entire day, not just in the classroom. They need to be able to communicate at home, over the weekend, and on summer vacation.
- It is important that the IEP states the student should have access to their device at all times (if the device belongs to the district, the IEP should state that the student can take the device home).
- More information about AAC here. For more tips for including AAC in a student’s IEP, check out AAC Community.