Augmentative alternative communication, speech language pathology, complex communication needs, medical speech language pathology, communication disorders


This study surveyed speech-language pathologists (SLPs) working in medical settings in the state of Florida in order to: (a) assess the availability of AAC devices, related materials, and services in acute, sub-acute, long-term care, and outpatient medical facilities, (b) examine barriers and supports in providing AAC services to patients with complex communication needs (CCN) in the aforementioned settings, and (c) determine perceived levels of AAC knowledge of health care practitioners. One of the study's major findings was that 97.59% of SLPs served at least one patient they identified as having CCNs, and 94.1% of respondents indicated that their patients could benefit from increased access to AAC devices and service delivery. A notable finding relating to the need for increased AAC-related communication partner instruction (CPI) is as follows: 97% and 100% of respondents indicated that increased CPI for medical practitioners/staff and family members, respectively, were important elements in order to ensure functional communication for individuals with AAC needs in the medical setting. Major barriers to providing AAC services related to device access (i.e., lack of AAC supports / devices, lack of funding for equipment, length of time of device funding). Other barriers were related to the nature of medical settings (i.e., frequently changing caseloads, limited time with patients) and demands of the job (i.e., lack of time to prepare AAC materials / devices). Supports to providing AAC services included low-tech AAC options and mobile technologies. In terms of practitioner knowledge, 57.6% of respondents rated themselves not at all or somewhat knowledgeable regarding AAC. Physicians, nurses, and other rehabilitation professionals were rated as less than knowledgeable by 95%, 97%, and 84.3% of participants, respectively. Overall, the findings of this study suggests there is a high prevalence of patients in medical settings with AAC needs, and some face unmet communication needs resulting from barriers related to the setting itself, lack of access to AAC devices and materials, and limited time spent on AAC service delivery.


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Graduation Date





Kent-Walsh, Jennifer


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Health and Public Affairs


Communication Sciences and Disorders

Degree Program

Communication Sciences and Disorders








Release Date

December 2014

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)


Dissertations, Academic -- Health and Public Affairs; Health and Public Affairs -- Dissertations, Academic