Approximately 12 % of preschoolers and 5% of school-aged children in the US present with significant disabilities that affect their ability to learn language and use speech functionally. These children are at risk of social isolation and academic exclusion. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tools, such as speech-generating devices (SGDs), can be used to support their communication and language development. Yet, the provision of an SGD is only a first step. Effective interventions and professional development are needed to maximize these children’s communicative competence and ensure their access to the same academic and social opportunities as their peers. This presentation will describe Dr. Soto’s work in the area of AAC, specifically in response to the following questions: (1) what are the core aspects of language development in children who use AAC? ; (2) how should language be taught to children who use AAC? and (3) what are the characteristics of effective AAC-mediated interventions? The presentation will conclude with a discussion on how this work aligns with the college of Education’s strategic directions, specifically in the area of learning differences and special education.
Dr. Gloria Soto is a Full Professor at San Francisco State University with a joint appointment in the Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences and the Department of Special Education. She is also the coordinator of the Joint Doctoral Program in Special Education between SFSU and University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Soto specializes in augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). AAC includes a set of communication tools that can be used by individuals with disabilities that affect their ability to speak. These strategies can range from unaided forms of communication, such as manual signs, gestures and facial expressions, to aided forms of communication such as graphic symbols mounted on different types of displays and speech generating technologies. Dr. Soto’s research focuses on language development and intervention for children and youth who use AAC, inclusive educational practices, and the provision of AAC services to children from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. Current research projects involve the development of best practices for the equitable provision of AAC services to ‘minoritized’ students, and the investigation of discourse based interventions on the linguistic skills of children and youth who use AAC