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Evaluating AAC Interventions Through Research Syntheses: Key Components and Critical Issues

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Service providers, family members, and individuals with little or no functional speech are often unsure of what sources are most reliable to assist in selecting the most effective AAC interventions. Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the research provide information aggregating key factors across many studies. This workshop will familiarize participants with steps in conducting and recognizing high-quality reviews and meta-analyses and interpreting their content.

The presenters will outline the general steps in conducting high-quality reviews and meta-analyses, including:
• Developing research questions
• Conducting a literature search
• Evaluating the quality of each study
• Choosing and using appropriate “effect size” metrics
• Extracting raw effectiveness data from original research
• Determining whether published reviews are of high quality

Examples will be drawn from the results of the presenters’ research related to AAC interventions, including: (a) meta-analyses of exchange-based AAC and high-tech for people with developmental disabilities, including differential effects related to participant characteristics, AAC modes, contexts, and outcome measures and (b) systematic reviews on speech output technologies, effects of AAC interventions on speech production, and effects of manual sign instruction and graphic symbol applications in people with autism spectrum disorder.

Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of the research literature are increasingly recognized as valuable scientific tools to facilitate decision-making by clinicians and educators. They are fundamental for identifying evidence-based practices not only because of their scientific rigor, but because they offer the practitioner access to “pre-filtered evidence,” based on the methodologically strongest data in the field.


Jennifer Ganz    
Texas A&M University
United States

Oliver Wendt    
Purdue University
United States

Ralf Schlosser    
Northeastern University
United States


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