1. Section Editor(s): Troia, Gary A. PhD, CCC-SLP
  2. Co-Editor
  3. Wallace, Sarah E. PhD, CCC-SLP
  4. Co-Editor

Article Content

The final issue of volume 39 of Topics in Language Disorders celebrates trailblazing. Trailblazing in the form of a person of immense conviction and lofty stature in the field of communication sciences and disorders-the founding editor of this journal, Katharine (Kay) Butler, who recently passed away-and in the form of technology and its ever advancing impact on human interaction, especially its capacity to assist individuals who struggle with communication. Nickola (Nicki) Wolf Nelson, Kay's successor as editor-in-chief of the journal, has written a touching tribute to Kay, which we include in this issue, weaving in commentary from the many who counted Kay as a fierce friend, generous mentor, accomplished scholar, and esteemed colleague. She was a trailblazer with great foresight about the importance of linking research with practice, a guiding tenet of the mission for Topics in Language Disorders. As for trailblazing communication technology, specifically augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems and devices, this issue's invited editor, John McCarthy, has put together a series of articles illustrating the potential of AAC to overcome communication obstacles in children, adolescents, and adults with diverse needs. At the same time, these articles highlight how the positive impacts of AAC systems and devices on individuals' communication success are mediated by many factors, not the least of which is the speech-language pathologist who advocates on behalf of persons with primary and secondary communication disorders, helps select and teach use of AAC systems and devices based on the unique needs and contexts of those affected, and monitors the use, feasibility, and acceptability of the system or device over time to assure the person's continued communication effectiveness as contexts and abilities change.


First, Holyfield and Caron (2019) use case examples to help distinguish when AAC technologies are used to teach specific communications skills and competencies versus when they are used to compensate for impaired speech and language skills in adolescents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and they remind us that these therapeutic priorities are not mutually exclusive. Then, Fulcher-Rood and Higginbotham (2019) use analysis of videotape transcripts of interactions between a middle-aged man with late-stage amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and his wife to show how the dyad used multiple communication modes and media to construct meaningful utterances that met the temporal-sequential and in-person demands of the partners when engaged in routine conversational exchanges. Next, McCarthy and Boster (2019) describe how AAC devices and their placement within the communicative environment can detract from successful interaction by placing additional demands on the participants, complement the interaction in such a way as to facilitate successful communication, or possibly enhance social interaction through opportunities for collaboration. They also remind us of the distinction between unaided and aided communication systems. Finally, Sennott, Lee, Akagi, and Rhodes (2019) present an overview of the varied facets of artificial intelligence and the potential of artificial intelligence to enhance the effectiveness of AAC systems.


-Gary A. Troia, PhD, CCC-SLP




-Sarah E. Wallace, PhD, CCC-SLP






Fulcher-Rood K., Higginbotham J. (2019). Interacting with persons who have ALS: Time, media, modality, and collaboration via speech generating devices. Topics in Language Disorders, 39(4), 370-388. [Context Link]


Holyfield C., Caron J. (2019). AAC technology innovations to build skills and compensate for limitations in adolescent language. Topics in Language Disorders, 39(4), 350-369. [Context Link]


McCarthy J., Boster J. B. (2019). Growing up with technology: Does the device go in the middle? Topics in Language Disorders, 39(4), E1-E16. [Context Link]


Sennott S. C., Lee M., Akagi L., Rhodes A. (2019). AAC and artificial intelligence (AI). Topics in Language Disorders, 39(4), 389-403. [Context Link]