Five members of The Guild School’s Speech and Language Department presented the findings of their innovative research study, which examined a method to train teachers and aides as “communications partners,” at the prestigious American Speech and Hearing Association Convention in November in Boston.

The study, Efficacy of High-Frequency Consult Services with Communication Partners of Students Who Use AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices), was conducted with four students, two lead teachers and two teaching assistants at The Guild earlier this year.

“It was an exciting experience to participate in the convention and to be selected to share our findings during a poster session,” said Andrea Edmunds, leader of the Speech and Language Department at The Guild. “We were pleasantly surprised at the level of interest our study generated among conference attendees. People are very interested in this topic.”

She was joined at the conference by Guild colleagues and fellow study authors Erin Archibald, Katherine Beatty, Emily Calden and Annemarie Hall.

“The Guild community is so proud of the accomplishments of this team. We applaud Andrea, Erin, Katherine, Emily and Annemarie for their unique approach, and for being invited to present at the premier annual professional education event for speech-language pathologists, audiologists, and speech, language and hearing scientists,” says Guild Chief Executive Officer Amy C. Sousa. “This is one example of the innovative staff initiatives that we witness at The Guild each day.”

As part of the study, communication partners were filmed for an hour each week over a four-week period interacting with AAC users to collect baseline data. After speech therapists consulted twice daily with the teachers and assistants about the AAC devices, they were filmed again to determine whether the intervention had improved the users’ communications skills.

The Guild team is already planning for subsequent research modifications, including communicating in other ways with direct caregivers, studying additional participants and utilizing more advanced technology to track student progress.

“We have a lot more work to do,” Andrea said. “We came away with beneficial information that steers us in new directions.”

The study and its key findings help The Guild staff advance communication skills, leading to behavioral improvements in students who are empowered and able to communicate their wants and needs.