AAC in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences

AAC is a dynamic area of research and clinical practice to support individuals of all ages, cultures and languages who are unable to use verbal speech to express themselves.

Types of AAC systems may include unaided forms of communication such as gestures and sign language; and aided methods such as no-tech communication books and boards and high-tech speech-generating devices. An estimated 1.3% of the US population or roughly 4.25 million children and adults may benefit from AAC, either temporarily or long-term.

The Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences (SLHS) at SF State is committed to preparing professionals with a strong background in AAC assessment and intervention. Highlights of AAC specialization in SLHS include coursework, clinical practicum, specialized programs and research.

AAC Courses in SLHS

Undergraduate students in the Bachelor of Science Degree in Communicative Disorders at SF State develop basic knowledge of Augmentative and Alternative Communication in the course, SLHS 663: Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Not all universities with undergraduate degrees in Communicative Disorders require this course. As seniors, SLHS undergraduate students also have the option to volunteer as clinic aides with children or adults in specialized AAC clinics on campus.

SLHS graduate students in the Master of Science degree in Communicative Disorders are also required to complete students have the option to enroll in specialized clinics with children or adults to learn and apply clinical skills in AAC Services.

Opportunities for AAC specialization are also available in the Department of Special Education. Future Special Education teachers complete SPED 743: Augmentative Communication, to become Education Specialists to serve students with Extensive Support Needs or to complete the Added Authorization in Orthopedic Impairment.

AAC in the Nicholas J. Certo Speech and Language Clinic

Both SLHS undergraduate students and graduate students have the option of gaining clinical experience to provide AAC services with children and adults in one of two specialized clinics on the SF State campus. SF State is proud to offer both an adult and child AAC clinic on campus for individuals with complex communication needs. Specialized clinical practicum in AAC is supervised by Clinical Educators who are SLPs with extensive experience and expertise in AAC.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Clinic

AAC Adult Clinic: Conversation Club

AAC Conversation Club members are young adults who use AAC systems that include both low and high-tech modalities who seek opportunities to expand their communication skills. The capacity of the group is six to eight regular members and we are currently full. There are opportunities during the semester to attend a guest session to see how the Conversation Club runs. We encourage others to keep the communication going and start Conversation Clubs in their own areas. Please contact Sarah Leslie at sleslie@sfsu.edu for more information.

AAC Child Clinic: Storytellers' Club

The AAC Storytellers' Club operates in fall and spring semesters for elementary school-age children who use AAC systems to communicate and learn. SLHS graduate student clinicians and undergraduate clinic aides support children in both group and individual sessions to build their communication skills using AAC tools. Children participate in social routines; language-rich activities related to personal stories and stories of others; and sharing time. Please contact Kelly Rinehart at rinehart@sfsu.edu for more information.

 Additional information, including participation process, can be found on our Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Conversation Club for Adults and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Storytellers' Club pages.

AAC Specializations in AAC

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Graduate Certificate

This graduate certificate is designed to prepare highly qualified professionals to provide Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) services for children, youth and adults with complex communication needs (CCN) in school and community settings within the context of an interdisciplinary team. acquire specialized competence in the areas of (a) culturally responsive AAC assessment; (b) culturally-responsive AAC intervention; (c) collaborative teaming; and (d) development of AAC applications to support the language and literacy skills of culturally and linguistically diverse children, youth and adults.

Current SF State graduate students who are enrolled in the master’s degree programs in Communicative Disorders, Special Education, and related fields; and practicing professionals in health, human services, and educational fields may complete a 12-credit specialization in AAC. The AAC Graduate Certificate is awarded by the SF State Graduate Division.

 To apply, go to CalState Apply and select Graduate Certificate in AAC.

Project Building Bridges

Project Building Bridges

Preparing Highly Qualified Speech-Language Pathologists to Serve Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Children with AAC Needs

Project Building Bridges is funded from 2015-2020 by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs for the purpose of preparing speech-language pathologists with specialization in AAC as part of the Master of Science degree in Communicative Disorders. The most recent in a series of USDOE grants to build AAC specialization at SF State, Project Building Bridges uniquely prepares speech-language pathologists to serve students with complex communication needs and diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. SLHS graduate students enrolled in Project Building Bridges complete a series of courses, clinical training and internship experiences to provide AAC services with students, in collaboration with families and school teams, to include individual cultures and languages.

Over the course of the five-year grant, SLHS graduate students in the Master of Science degree in Communicative Disorders may apply to the Project Building Bridges specialization in AAC. Eight to ten Project Building Scholars are selected annually and provided stipend funding through the grant. Project Building Bridges Scholars are awarded the AAC Graduate Certificate upon completion of the grant requirements.

Curriculum requirements include the following:

  • Completion of on- campus clinical experience with children or adults;
  • SPED 743: Augmentative and Alternative Communication, with simultaneous field work in school settings to provide AAC services with culturally and linguistically diverse students;
  • International AAC summer internship; and
  • SPED 746: AAC in the Schools in conjunction with the school internship.

For more information about AAC at SF State, contact: Gloria Soto, Ph.D. gsoto@sfsu.edu or Nancy Robinson, Ph.D., CCC-SLP nancyr@sfsu.edu.

 Additional information regarding the application process can be found on our Specialized Training page.

AAC Research

Research opportunities in AAC are available to all graduate students in the SLHS and SPED Departments. Dr. Gloria Soto, with a joint appointment in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and the Department of Special Education, coordinates the Joint Doctoral in Special Education between SF State and the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Soto leads research that focuses on language development and intervention for children and youth who use AAC, inclusive educational practices, and the provision of AAC services to children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Current research projects involve the development of best practices for the equitable provision of AAC services to 'minoritized' students, and the investigation of discourse based interventions on the linguistic skills of children and youth who use AAC.