Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to communication methods beyond verbal speech that can help those with communication impairments express their thoughts, needs, wants and ideas.

Individuals who have communication impairments use Augmentative and Alternative Communication either to supplement their speech or replace speech entirely, depending on the person’s needs.

The Augmentative and Alternative Communication team at Ohio State is led by a speech-language pathologist, who collaborates with other assistive technology providers, such as occupational therapists, physical therapists and rehabilitation engineers, to ensure that every individual patient’s communication needs are met. Part of The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Assistive Technology Center, the AAC team also is certified through the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America.

Our Services

Ohio State’s Augmentative and Alternative Communication program offers therapeutic solutions and access to both low- and high-tech tools. Low-tech AAC includes dry erase boards, picture-based communication books and similar tools. High-tech AAC includes tablets, speech-generating devices and specialized software.

The Ohio State Augmentative and Alternative Communication team provides an individualized approach to determine the best solution for you, guiding you from evaluation to equipment-fitting to training and practicing functional use.

Our Patients

Some of our patients have never had the ability to communicate verbally, some have communication abilities that are deteriorating because of progressive disorders, and some patients have lost the ability to communicate via speech because of a brain injury, stroke or other event.

Referrals to Ohio State’s Augmentative and Alternative Communication program include individuals who have been diagnosed with:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Brain injuries
  • Stroke
  • Voice disorders, such as aphonia
  • Progressive neurological impairments, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Huntington’s disease


How do I get an appointment for an evaluation with Augmentative and Alternative Communication services at the Ohio State Wexner Medical Center?

Your physician or speech therapist can help you determine whether it’s the right time to seek AAC solutions. A physician can refer you for an evaluation with Ohio State’s AAC services by faxing this information to 614-293-9002:

- Primary and speech therapy medical diagnosis
- The need for AAC equipment
- The most recent office notes
- Any medication lists

The referring physician doesn’t need to be a specific type of doctor or specialist, but he or she does need to be able to sign off on necessary equipment for insurance purposes.  

What’s involved in an assessment or evaluation to find the best communication tools for me?

An AAC evaluation will begin with an initial appointment to assess speech, language and cognition. 

Our specialists use in-depth interviews and dynamic assessment to understand any physical, sensory, cognitive, or linguistic challenges you may have, as well as how independently you’re able to communicate verbally.

At this initial appointment, members of our team also provide more information about what augmentative and alternative communication tools are and what devices may be available for your particular circumstances. This is an opportunity for you to ask as many questions as you need and to help us learn where and how these tools might be used in your everyday life.

Following the evaluation appointment, a speech-language pathologist will work with you to decide what types of tools may be best. We’ll schedule follow-up appointments to demonstrate the devices, let you test multiple types of equipment and train you on how to use the equipment.  The speech-language pathologist will collaborate with occupational therapists, physical therapists and rehabilitation engineers as needed to ensure that all of your assistive technology needs are met.

How much independence can I expect to gain with my new Augmentative and Alternative Communication tool(s)?

Each person’s level of independence varies based on what tools they’re willing to use, the type of disorder or physical challenges they may have, and what their everyday life looks like. However, the tools we match with patients can provide independence in more than just communication – they can help people change the channel on their TV or turn on lights and fans, for example. Many people use their AAC devices to help them gain and maintain employment. 

A wide range of tools can help reduce the burden of care both inside and outside the home.

AAC Devices

At The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center’s Assistive Technology Center, Augmentative and Alternative Communication tools can be used in combination with one another. 

For example, someone who becomes fatigued by speaking verbally throughout the day may use a combination of low- or high-tech AAC tools throughout the day to achieve what they want to communicate.

These tools include picture-board communicators, text-to-speech options and speech-generating devices. These devices provide voice output and, in some cases, voice-banking software can be used to tailor your device to sound like your own, recorded voice rather than a computerized voice.

AAC devices can be tailored to each individual with wheelchair mounts and customized access methods, such as laser-pointers, eye-gaze technology and specially located switches.

Our Team

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Carmen P. DiGiovine, PhD, ATP/SMS, RET

Carmen P. DiGiovine is a rehabilitation engineer and clinical associate professor in the Occupational Therapy Division and Biomedical Engineering Department at The Ohio State University. He is the director of Rehabilitation Science and Technology for the Assistive Technology Center at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. He is also the director of Admissions for the Occupational Therapy Division. Clinically, DiGiovine specializes in technology integration for individuals with disabilities, his areas of interest including assistive technology, rehabilitation engineering, evidence-based practice, clinical guideline development and technology commercialization.

DiGiovine has more than 20 years of experience in the fields of assistive technology and rehabilitation engineering, and he is an active member of the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America (RESNA). He has presented at national and international conferences for the past 20 years and regularly teaches courses at The Ohio State University.


Elizabeth Gauen

Elizabeth Gauen joined Assistive Technology Services at Ohio State Wexner Medical Center in 2019. She works both in the Wheelchair Seating Clinic and the Driver Rehabilitation Program, with a focus on High Tech Driver Rehabilitation. Elizabeth enjoys collaborating with physical and occupational therapists and applying technology to meet each individual's unique needs.


Audrey Hall

Audrey Hall specializes in adult neurogenic communication disorders and augmentative & alternative communication (AAC) at the OSU Assistive Technology Center. She collaborates with occupational therapists, physical therapists, and rehabilitation engineers to identify effective, technology-based communication systems for patients and families.

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