Skip to content

Other ways to search: Events Calendar | UTHSC News

Severe Disabilities and AAC Concentration

Graduate students in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology may apply to pursue a concentration in the area of Severe Disabilities and AAC (SDA). Application materials can be obtained from Dr. Jillian McCarthy or Dr. Erinn Finke. All concentration application materials should be submitted after the first semester of graduate studies, and after discussion with your academic advisor. Please note that not all applicants will be admitted into the concentration.

The purpose of the SDA concentration is to:

  • Provide students with expert knowledge in designing and programming augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) technology and applications.
  • Develop critical competencies in assessment and intervention specific to designing and selecting AAC systems.
  • Develop critical competencies in broader aspects of working with and providing services to individuals with severe disabilities, covering topic such as seating and positioning, access, curriculum adaptation, dual sensory impairment, severe cognitive impairment, and severe physical impairments.
  • Complement a student’s existing scholarly knowledge and build upon transferable skills to prepare graduates for entry into clinical service positions working with children and/or adults with severe disabilities who use or could benefit from AAC.
  • Provide students with opportunities to gain clinical practicum skills in supervised contexts with patients with severe disabilities and also with those who use or could benefit from AAC.

Students in the SDA concentration must complete the following three academic courses (9 academic credits total), in addition to 75 clinical practice hours in the areas of severe disabilities and/or AAC.


ASP 561 Child Language Disorders (3 credits)

ASP 587 Severe Disabilities (3 credits)

ASP 558 Augmented Alternative Communication (3 credits)

Selection and scheduling of academic courses will be approved and monitored by the student’s academic advisor. Completion of all SDA concentration requirements will be approved by the SDA faculty and documented in the student’s Program of Study by their faculty advisor. Completion of all SDA requirements must be verified by approval signatures from the academic advisor and SDA faculty on the student’s Completion of Concentration form, which will be placed in the student’s department file.

The SDA Concentration requires at least 75 clinical practice hours in assessing or treating children and/or adults with complex communication needs. At least 45 of the clock hours must be supervised by the clinical faculty in the Hearing and Speech Center, the Preschool Language Clinic or Child Hearing Services. There are many different clinical experiences that may meet the requirements for this concentration. Any questions about the appropriateness of a potential clinical experience in meeting the goals of the SDA concentration should be directed to the SDA concentration faculty in advance of the completion of the clinical hours.  

In the event that a SDA concentration student receives a grade of a “C” or lower in ASP 533 (HSC/PLC Practicum) and/or ASP 515 (CHS Practicum), the student will be unable to complete further requirements for the concentration.

Oct 27, 2023