Introducing the TAT4AAC (Thinking About Thinking for AAC)

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12/20/2019 10:00 PM

We are all challenged by cognitive demands placed on us by everyday technology. My latest challenges have been in the grocery store and with my smartphone. When I go to pay for groceries with a credit card, each store has different procedures. I’m either asked to swipe my card or to place the card in a chip reader. Some stores want me to sign with my finger, or sign with a stylus or just don’t sign. Each machine is slightly different and requires me to attend to the features of the technology. Same with my new smartphone. It took me ages to learn how to correctly use the HOME button. Now I don’t have a HOME button anymore. I must learn how to use swipe as my latest feature. I’m forever a learner of  each new technology and the new demands that are placed on me for effective use.

The cognitive demands of technologies are present in each AAC device, as well. Consider for a moment the child who is learning to use an eye gaze system. She must remember her intended selection while moving her eyes to the correct area of the screen or switching screens to find the intended word. And if she’s using symbols, she must match the symbol with the intended word. The attention, memory and executive function demands placed on the youngster for just providing a one-word response are huge in this situation. We must examine what cognitive demands are placed on the user by AAC technology, and we must factor those cognitive demands into device design, device prescriptions, treatment and implementation.

In 2014, the REKNEW lab at Oregon Health & Science University, a partner of the NIDILRR-funded Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (RERC on AAC), took on the challenge of developing a website that would help AAC providers, designers, and consumers consider these cognitive demands. We called the website TAT4AAC: Thinking about Thinking for AAC.  (website:

The TAT4AAC website went live on Tuesday, November 12. We started sending out links to our colleagues, listservs, websites, and any interested parties we could think of. The Matrix CoP team asked us to share it with you here. We are delighted. In our next post, we will describe the evidence-based process that we used to develop the tool. And in our final post, we will propose different uses of the interactive tool. We hope you find this new resource as innovative, useful and important as we do: 

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