Tennessee Talks FAQs
What is the purpose of this project?
To provide assistive technology and augmentative assistive communication (AT-AAC) support for any student in a Tennessee public school who currently does not have a reliable or effective mode of communicating.
Our goal is to build capacity in the evaluation, development, training, instruction, and progress monitoring required to develop and design communication systems for students with complex communication needs.
We are working to develop sustainability beyond the project through the development of local professional learning communities (PLCs) composed of educators, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, parents, and other identified specialists within the schools in that area.
Which students qualify for support and how are they identified?
The project was designed to identify and support the needs of public school students whose complex communication challenges significantly impact their ability to meaningfully engage and participate in school.
Will TN-Talks staff conduct AAC evaluations for our students with communication needs?
No, the staff within the four regional offices are available to guide the assessment process only as a means of training school-based clinicians to do so. The regional staff can assist school teams by sharing resources and evaluation methods. The intent is to equip the school staff with the tools and knowledge to conduct comprehensive evaluations for complex students.
What types of support are available through this program?
This 5-year project was designed to provide assistance to school-based staff when addressing student needs for AAC. This includes, but is not limited to, assisting with communication assessments, identifying necessary access supports (e.g., switches, mounts, etc.), supporting device trials for matching students with appropriate communication systems, navigating the funding process, and guiding implementation.
Does the program offer funding assistance to students or the schools for purchasing communication devices?
No, the program does not buy AAC devices or supports. Staff will, however, help guide the funding process when using the student’s health insurance or assist in locating financial support elsewhere when needed. The program also offers access to communication devices through regional lending libraries for assessment trials.
Should families be involved in the AAC assessment process?
Absolutely! Parents and caregivers are valuable members of the IEP team and should be involved in all aspects of the process. The family’s contribution and input are critical for the school team to design communication interventions that will support the child across settings.. Families should also be made aware of the potential for purchasing equipment/devices through the child’s health insurance at the onset of an evaluation.
What is a PLC?
A Professional Learning Communities (PLC) is a group of professionals who gather for collaborative instruction and sharing of information within a particular work environment or field. The program coordinators with TN-Talks are working to organize teachers and speech therapists into small groups within their home regions to share professional development activities related to the use of AAC.
Can our staff receive professional training?
Yes. Coordination of professional development activities is an important facet of this project. Staff from the service centers may offer local or regional or provide onsite instructional events customized to meet your specific educational needs.
Where are the lending libraries located and who can borrow items?
Any member of a student’s IEP team in Tennessee public (and charter) schools may borrow from the lending libraries when evaluating students with communication needs. A tab with direct links to the four regional libraries is on the website https://www.tennesseetalks.org/
What kinds of items and resources are available in the lending library?
Although the inventory varies in each region, all contain general items such as tablets with AAC apps, basic switches and peripheral access devices, printable communication resources, low-tech voice output communication aids (VOCA), and some high-tech speech generating devices.
Are there general assistive technologies like self-care items, mobility devices, or classroom supports available to borrow?
No, items unrelated to the identification of AAC supports/use are not available in the lending libraries.
Can we borrow a device for use while a student’s personal system is out for repair?
No. These libraries have been developed to provide school teams with communication devices/resources to support the AAC assessment process only.
How is it determined that a resource is appropriate to be offered to an individual?
The TN-Talks program staff do not make such determinations. Rather, they will assist team members with evaluating for and identifying the most appropriate communication systems for trial with each student. Final recommendations must be made by the IEP team.
What is the loan period for borrowing devices?
Equipment loan period is 4 weeks. A one-time renewal of 1 to 3 weeks may be requested if the device is not on reserve for another district. Repetitive reservations of the same device for the same student are not allowed.
Who is liable for repair or replacement of loaned devices?
At this time, the regional centers are assuming responsibility for device repairs or replacement due to damages that may be sustained while on loan to a school or student. This policy may change as the scope of services are expanded and refined.
Are there expenses involved in borrowing equipment for AAC trials?
At this time, there are no fees incurred with device loans. The regional program will pay to ship each device/item to you and the school district is expected to pay return shipping.
How is the assessment process set up?
Each regional center has established a policy and procedural guide for providing assistance to school staff with the AAC evaluation process. TN-Talks staff do NOT directly perform AAC assessments, but serve as an instructional resource for the school-based speech therapists or other team members who request support to grow their evaluation skills.
If an assistive technology device is recommended for my child, how will my child's caregivers and I be trained to use the device (or any type of technology)?
All manufacturers of communication devices provide setup assistance and training through local representatives for anyone purchasing one of their systems. The school-based SLP and the regional TN-Talks staff will also work with the family and school staff to customize the programming and support carryover and use across settings.
What kind of follow up and consultation will be available? The school-based therapist from the school will assume responsibility for ongoing management of the communication system with the child, family, and members of the educational team.
Your regional TN-Talks staff is available to provide ongoing guidance to school staff and the family, coordinates local and state-level training on the use of AAC devices, can arrange onsite events for small group sessions, and offers information to access online webinars through the website www.tennesseetalks.org for ongoing learning.