2004 Conference Proceedings

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Sarah W. Blackstone, Ph.D.
Augmentative Communication, Inc.
1 Surf Way, #237
Monterey, CA 93940
Phone: 831-649-3050
Fax: 831-646-5428
Email: sarahblack@augcominc.com

Mary Hunt Berg, Ph.D.
The Bridge School
545 Eucalyptus Ave
Hillsborough, CA, 94010
Phone: (650) 696-7295
Fax: (650) 342-7598
Email: Huntberg@aol.com

Lewis Golinker, Esq.
Assistive Technology Law Center
202 East State Street, Suite 507
Ithaca, NY 14850
Phone: 607-277-7286
Fax: 607-277-5239
Email: lgolinker@aol.com

This session highlights current uses of Social Networks: An Inventory for Persons with Complex Communication Needs and Their Communication Partners (Blackstone and Hunt Berg, 2003). Presenters will discuss the clinical, research and advocacy uses of Social Networks (SN). SN is meant to link the assessment and planning processes to the outcomes sought by individuals with complex communication needs and their families (Blackstone, 2003). SN can also heighten awareness of the multidimensional challenges in AAC interventions and help practitioners better understand the similarities and differences among populations and across the age groups of people who benefit from AAC. It is also helpful in making decisions about the use of specific technologies to support the development of communicative competence over time.

By highlighting the family's role in successful communication interventions, SN helps focus the attention of professionals on the distinctive needs, priorities and preferences of the people who are the "end users" of AAC strategies and their family members. Importantly, SN helps to clarify the distinctions between an individual's various communication partners and the particular strategies used to communicate with each. It also captures the multimodal nature of communication, enabling practitioners to collect information about the use of various modes of communication across contexts, activities and partners in a way that is both more systematic and more helpful than available alternatives.

By defining three clear stages of communicative competence along the road to "communicative independence," SN helps to clarify a person's "intervention path" in the same way a map helps people plan a route from one place to another (Dowden and Cook, 2002). By incorporating features of Light's model of communicative competence (Light 1988) and Beukelman and Mirenda's participation model (Beukelman & Mirenda, 1998), SN can help clinicians pinpoint specific areas that require skill development, as well as identify barriers and opportunities across a person's social networks. Social Networks can also play a valuable role in illuminating distinct sociocultural contexts.

Clinicians, researchers and advocates began to use Social Networks about one year ago. Over the past year, the authors have kept in touch with individuals in North America, Europe and Australia who are currently the tool. This session will provide an interim report on Social Networks in three important areas important to clinicians, advocates and researchers.

First, presenters will discuss ways in which clinicians have found Social Networks helpful in the assessment and intervention planning process with children and adults with developmental and acquired disorders. Then, the presenters will lead a discussion with participants about ways they might use Social Networks (or components of Social Networks) to help in the decision-making process of recommending assistive technologies (specifically AAC devices).

Following the focus on clinical uses of Social Networks, the session will delineate ways in which Social Networks can be useful in developing funding requests for AAC devices. They will then lead a discussion to help clarify ways participants might use Social Networks as an advocacy tool. For example, Social Networks reinforces the notion that "all daily activities" should be considered in delineating communication needs rather than "medical need" alone.

Finally, presenters will describe ways in which Social Networks is being used in research (e.g., as an outcomes measurement) and will lead a guided discussion about the benefits of using tools that can be readministered over time and across the age span in an effort to further inform clinical practice.

This session is meant to be practical and will invite audience participation. The format will include short presentations followed by guided discussions.


Beukelman, D.R. & Mirenda, P. (1998 2nd Edition). Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Management of Severe Communication Disorders in Children and Adults. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co. http://www.pbrookes.com

Blackstone, S. (2003). Clinical News: Social Networks: What is it? Why use it? Augmentative Communication News. 15:2, p.1-2.

Blackstone, S. and Hunt Berg, M. (2003). Social Networks: A communication inventory for individuals with severe communication challenges and their communication partners. Monterey, CA: Augmentative Communication, Inc.

Dowden, P.A. and Cook, A. M. (2002). Selection techniques for individuals with motor impairments. In J. Reichle, D. Beukelman and J. Light (eds), Implementing an Augmentative Communication System: Exemplary Strategies for Beginning Communicators. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., 395-432.

Light, J. (1988). Interaction involving individuals using augmentative and alternative communication systems: State of the art and future directions. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. 4, 66-82.

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