Closing The Gap

The Closing The Gap Conference is an annual assistive technology conference that presents an opportunity to deepen your assistive technology (AT) knowledge and strengthen your implementation strategies.

Minneapolis, USA

Assistiveware is excited to announce our attendance at the upcoming "Closing the Gap" conference, a premier event in the assistive technology industry.

Pre-conference session

Start a system-wide revolution: implementing emergent literacy instruction with robust AAC across classrooms

Presented by Caroline Musselwhite, Erin Sheldon, Gretchen Hanser, Kim Kulasekaran, Lauren Enders Gonzales and Tova Horowitz

This workshop helps teachers who already know about comprehensive emergent literacy instruction teach their colleagues and bring their school system on board. Participants will learn to deliver content, engage in active learning, observe and share feedback, and set goals. They'll leave with a toolkit of materials, including slide decks, practice activities, lesson plans, observation forms, and outreach materials for administrators and families. This hands-on session will help spread comprehensive literacy instruction throughout schools and systems.

Find out more about this session

When and where: October 10 | 8:00 am – 5:00 pm

When modeling AAC is not enough: explicit direct instruction to teach core vocabulary

Presented by Erin

Educators and clinicians play a crucial role in teaching vocabulary to students learning AAC. In addition to incidental AAC modeling, our students need explicit vocabulary instruction to develop rich expressive and receptive word knowledge. This session will demonstrate a simple daily vocabulary instructional routine (borrowed from explicit alphabet instruction!). We will explore ways to embed vocabulary instruction in shared writing routines. Best yet, this session will help you leverage the unique attributes of a robust AAC system to maximize your instructional impact. Come explore how common AAC features – such as graphic symbols and taxonomic fringe categories – are powerful vocabulary instruction tools for any student. Come learn how to supercharge your vocabulary instruction!

When and where: October 11, 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM | Directors Row 2

Supporting gestalt language processors to keep scripting

Presented by Alyssa

Over the past few years, we have made a lot of progress in the field in terms of allowing therapy to be more neurodiversity-affirming and child-led. The Natural Language Acquisition steps and the recommended therapy uses a lot of modeling and following the child’s interests, and few-to-no direct trials. However, the aimed for end result is still for a child to look like a typical communicator. While word-by-word language generation is an important skill to have, it is also important to support gestalt processors by helping them feel confident communicating with their scripts. This session considers the benefits and methods to support this for AAC users.

When and where: October 11, 11:00 am – 12:00 pm | Directors Row 2

Introduction to Proloquo and Proloquo Coach: AssistiveWare’s next-generation AAC

Presented by David

This session is an introduction to AssistiveWare’s next-generation AAC service based on the new Proloquo and Proloquo Coach apps. Proloquo offers a simple, efficient AAC solution designed to scaffold families and professionals in effective AAC implementation. It includes a new cutting-edge vocabulary called Crescendo Evolution™ based on the latest research insights and anonymous language use data from tens of thousands of AAC users. Proloquo Coach is an AAC best-practice coach that supports communication partners to implement AAC and reduces the risk of device abandonment. After 3 years of research and development we are excited to share the ideas behind this new service in this session. We will also demo the new apps and explain their unique features.

When and where: October 11, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM | Directors Row 2

Similar students, different AAC outcomes: what can we learn from other countries?

Presented by David and Erin

Consent-based anonymous language use data from over 25,000 AAC users reveals stark differences between countries. We explore English AAC language use and language proficiency differences between the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. Next we try to identify what is done differently in these countries and how this translates to these different outcomes despite a similar student population. We will also include comparisons with countries such as France, Spain and The Netherlands and look at differences between English, French and Spanish AAC use. Finally, we look for those things we could do differently in the US today to positively impact the opportunities and outcomes for AAC users. You will leave with at least one idea for something you can easily change starting tomorrow.

When and where: October 11, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM and October 12, 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM | Directors Row 2

Strategic modeling: model smarter, not harder

Presented by David and Erin

Model, model, model is the current mantra of the AAC field. Yet in practice, little modeling happens in the schools and homes of AAC users. Few communication partners have the necessary clarity on what, how, and when to model and for what purpose. In this interactive session, we will explore how modeling can contribute to each core AAC competency: linguistic, operational, social, strategic, emotional, and psychosocial. Together with the attendees, we will break down the requirements in terms of what, how and when to model to support the development of each competency. Finally, we will together explore the contexts where modeling is likely to be more or less doable and what complementary or alternative strategies might better support the development of each competency.

When and where: October 11, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM and October 12, 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM | Directors Row 2

“Nothing about us without us:” build your supported decision-making toolbox!

Presented by Erin

Supported decision-making is the commitment to involve someone as much as possible in the big decisions about their own life. School systems are mandated to maximize the role of students in their own transition planning. Yet many educators struggle to elicit the involvement of students with complex needs, particularly those with emergent AAC skills. This hands-on session will equip educators and families with simple tools and strategies to engage all students in a range of decisions. Educators and families of any student with developmental or intellectual disabilities, of any age, will leave with new ideas about how to maximize every student’s voice in their own planning

When and where: October 12, 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM | Directors Row 2

Proloquo2Go versus Proloquo face-off: how do we evaluate AAC apps?

Presented by David and Erin

These days there are plenty of robust AAC options. How do you choose between them? What features and aspects should you consider? We will together explore what the common criteria are for choosing an AAC solution and matching them to user needs. We will also consider what aspects might need more attention than usually awarded. Next we will apply the identified criteria to Proloquo2Go and Proloquo in a live on-stage comparison. Bring your own favorite AAC app or device to follow along and compare. At the end of the session you will have a better understanding of the key differences between Proloquo2Go and Proloquo. You will have also broadened your perspective on assessing and evaluating robust AAC products and matching them to user needs.

When and where: October 12, 9:30 AM - 10:30 AM | Directors Row 2

(CANCELLED) Autonomy, Self-Determination, Dignity of Risk, and Harm Reduction for AAC Users

Presented by Cole Sorensen and Donnie TC Denome

NOTE: Due to illness, Donnie and Cole will not be presenting at Closing the Gap.

Autonomy, self-determination, dignity of risk (the right to take risks and make mistakes), and harm reduction are often denied to AAC users, but are fundamental human rights. This session will also discuss the role of trauma in communication interventions and how autonomy, self-determination, dignity of risk, and harm reduction can ameliorate trauma. This session will explore the importance of these rights, how AAC users can exercise them, and the role of professionals and supporters in implementing these rights.

When and where: October 12, 1:30 PM - 2:30 PM | Directors Row 2

Our team members at the event:

“We can do this! Together, we can make communication and self-determination accessible to every single person.”
Erin Sheldon

Special Education Specialist

“Communication defines who we are and how we relate to others. I want to help enable everyone to communicate and make a difference in the world.”
David Niemeijer

Founder and CEO

“AAC is for everyone, mouth words are just for most people. Why isn't speech the 'alternative'?”
Alyssa Hillary Zisk

AAC Researcher