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James Northridge: Outgoing Fellow

Project Title: Communication matters: Does one size fit all, in the case of AAC apps for children with complex communication needs in a primary educational setting?

Host Institution: University of Massachusetts (2 yrs) return phase UCC 1 year

Host PI: Prof Bill McIlvane,UMMS, Dr Marian McCarthy, UCC

Home Institution: UrAbility


Summary: The proposed project intends to evaluate augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) assessment tools, and to develop a unique and innovative model for selecting a mobile technology AAC application (app) for children with complex communication needs. AAC is an umbrella term given to communication methods that may replace or supplement speech or writing for an individual. The project aim is to empower family members and practitioners to differentiate truly effective AAC apps from the many others that proliferate in today’s consumer-orientated market, and to maximise the advantages of mobile technologies to ensure that students can participate effectively in day-to-day educational interactions. Current AAC assessment tools are not designed to address criteria for differentiating among AAC apps, leading most families and practitioners to download their selection without any robust guidance or assessment. The proposed research seeks to shift the focus from mere technology-oriented solutions to the key goal of enabling communication. It will further analyse how AAC apps have altered the landscape of professional input, by allowing families to take the lead role with little assessment or evaluation. Therefore, it is important to understand how these apps are initially recommended and obtained. It is necessary to gauge the impact this is having on students and those that support them. AAC assessment tools will be reviewed under a formative evaluation process using specific criteria, to guide the design of a new AAC app selection model. This research will :


  • Evaluate assessment tools used by families and practitioners in selecting AAC apps.
  • Develop AAC app selection model
  • Develop training for selection of AAC apps for families and practitioners.