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Faculty Sponsor

Sharon Mankey; Mariesa Rang


Communication Sciences and Disorders


This study is being conducted to evaluate first responders’ knowledge of augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) and how to interact with individuals who use AAC prior to participating in the training and following the training. The objective is as follows: acknowledge the change in knowledge base of subjects, employees, and volunteers as first responders, prior to and following a lecture and hands-on activity about AAC systems. Speech language pathology focuses on the evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment of communication disorders. The term AAC is used to describe communication methods that aid or replace verbal communication. If first responders do not have the skills that allow them to collect accurate information from people who use AAC, these individuals may not get the appropriate assistance they need or may become a victim of crime and of the judicial system. The training of first responders is imperative in creating a safer community for those labeled as “disabled.” Once this project is completed, the training can then be replicated nationally and possibly internationally. Each participant’s knowledge base of the subject is evaluated by the use of pre-and-post event surveys. The data collected from each survey is being compiled into an Excel spreadsheet continuously. The impact of the specialized training to emergency first responder workers (police, fire, EMT, dispatch) regarding AAC is being assessed. In order to extrapolate the data, answers are being coded into common categories. From this coding, the pre-and-post survey data will be compared. The success of this training will then be determined. Potential participants are those attending a pre-scheduled training for emergency first responder departments who give permission for their surveys to be used. Participants are given the opportunity to decline participation in the research project. This does not hinder the individual’s training experience. Prior to completing the pre-event survey all individuals in attendance receive a brief overview of the research project. They participate in a lecture with hands-on training specifically designed for first responders. At the completion of the training, attendants are then given the opportunity to complete the post-event survey to evaluate their increased knowledge of AAC. To date, the results for the first 300 participants have been analyzed, with an anticipated final sample size of 1,000. The results collected thus far indicate that when given the training, first responders feel more comfortable communicating with someone who uses AAC. This suggests that the present data supports the objective. Additionally, an increased awareness of difficulty using AAC was noted post-survey. The respondents noted that the two most important things when interacting with AAC users are having patience and respect towards the AAC user and giving them time to respond. Data is continually being collected to provide further understanding of the benefits of training first responders in this area.

Perception and Knowledge of Emergency Responders Concerning Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC)