The Struggle of Sending AAC Devices Home for Summer (and how we can help)

May 9, 2023

As May marches toward June, many schools, teachers, and therapists are faced with the annual dilemma:  "How do I keep my students communicating through the summer if their AAC device is supposed to stay at school?"

It's a fair question.  When the iPad or tablet is owned by the district or school and school is no longer in session, how is that student going to have access?

Here are two options that may help you and your students have better communication success over summer break.  

School & teacher shown with dotted line leading to a home and family, An AAC device on the line.  Text reads" Keep AAc Available Even over summer break -- tips to make it happen." CoughDrop logo in bottom corner.

Option 1: Get Approval for Family Device Check-out

Probably the BEST option is to work to get approval for the student to grant them permission to take the device home for use over the summer.  This would allow them to continue to maneuver the device they have already learned to use with the speech boards and options they already know.  

That may seem impossible because many schools have not explored this need and there may be concerns about possible damage, liability, cost, etc.  While those are valid topics for discussion, keep in mind that IDEA Sec 300.105 addresses the necessity for assistive technology at home directly as follows:

IDEA (300.105) on Assistive Technology

(a) Each public agency must ensure that assistive technology devices or assistive technology services, or both, as those terms are defined in §§300.5 and 300.6, respectively, are made available to a child with a disability if required as a part of the child’s—
(1) Special education under §300.39;

(2) Related services under §300.34; or

(3) Supplementary aids and services under §§300.42 and 300.114.

On a case-by-case basis, the use of school-purchased assistive technology devices in a child’s home or in other settings is required if the child’s IEP Team determines that the child needs access to those devices in order to receive FAPE.

Start NOW to work with the case administrator or assistive technology specialist to get approval for the student to retain their device over the summer.  This may be a new avenue for many in the school or district, but it's an option that is worth pursuing and it's worth a bit of pressure.

Yes, the family and school/district will likely need to create an appropriate contract to clarify expectations on both sides.  However, that work can be a HUGE support to the student as they are able to continue their usual communication access throughout the summer months.  It can also greatly limit the language learning backslide when students return in the fall because they will have continued to use these options even when school was out.  

It may not be an easy option, but it may be the best option when viewed through the lens of supporting the student's needs.  

Option 2: Cloud-based access to AAC account on a family device

Even though the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act clearly notes that necessary assistive devices should be made available for students to use at home, that may not always happen in your school or district.

When the student is NOT allowed to retain their trusted speech device for communication over the summer, CoughDrop makes it possible for these students to still have access to their speech boards and communication set.

Because CoughDrop is cloud-based, the account can be accessed on just about any device.  This means that a student or family can log into the exact same account that has been used at school on their own device at home.  

By sharing the login information, the family can use a laptop, tablet, smartphone, Kindle, Amazon Fire, iPad, Chromebook, or another device to quickly reach the speech boards their child is already accustomed to using.  

Lightbulb in top left corner.  Text reads "Can your AAC open on any available device including iPad, Android, Kindle, Chromebook, and more?  CoughDrop can!  Explore and learn more"  There are a couple of AAC device types in the bottom right corner.  Background is salmon colored.

Remember that when engaged, CoughDrop logs and reports also track daily communication, so you could even check in over the break to see what kind of language is being used by this student.  

But what if the student login is also owned by the school and you are not allowed to share those credentials with the family?

No problem.  

Even if the school or group won't allow the sharing of account information, you aren't left without options.  Here are a couple of things to try.

  • Have the family create their own CoughDrop account, and then connect that account as a supervisor to the school account.  You can choose to link this supervisor so that they either do or do not have the ability to edit the speech boards and settings of the school-owned account if that is a concern.   This could allow the family to reach the speech boards of that school account and use them for modeling and communication, but would not necessarily allow them to make changes or alterations to the boards.
  • Because CoughDrop also offers a 2-month free trial to any user, the family could also create their own account as a trial account and you can share a copy of the speech boards from the school account with that family account.  This would allow the family account to be completely separate from the school account, but would also allow the student to reach the boards and communication options they have used in their time at school.
  • Start the process to have a dedicated speech device approved for the student so they NEVER have to be without their communication aid whether it's summer break or winter break or anything in between.  

    Many times AAC devices can be approved through insurance at little or no cost to family.  Forbes AAC, in particular, is ready to help you through this process with a simplified funding portal and dedicated assistive technology specialists.  

If that seems a little difficult or you aren't sure how to proceed, please reach out to our support team and we'd be happy to help you get things set.

Summer communication can be a bit uncertain when students rely on assistive technology like AAC – but think of the benefits when a bit of planning and work to make it possible!!  

Young boy sits on cement steps with an AAC device in his lap as he presses button on the screen.

Melissa DeMoux

Former CoughDrop Director of Marketing and Support -- worked with AAC communicators & teams