Providing services to individuals with complex communication needs in the inpatient rehabilitation setting: The experiences and perspectives of speech-language pathologists

Jessica Gormley, Janice Light

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose: To guide the development of future trainings in the inpatient rehabilitation setting, this study aimed to expand the current understanding of (a) the experiences of speech-language pathologists (SLPs) who work in inpatient rehabilitation settings when providing augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) services to individuals with complex communication needs and (b) the challenges and facilitating factors related to AAC services within this context. Method: An online focus group was used to explore experiences of 11 SLPs who work within the inpatient rehabilitation setting. Information was gathered about (a) the role of the inpatient SLP in AAC service delivery, (b) rehabilitation team service delivery, (c) successes and challenges to supporting individuals with complex communication needs within this setting, and (d) communication training opportunities. Results: Themes that emerged related to (a) the complicated logistics of rehabilitation; (b) the centrality of the rehabilitation team; (c) the limited AAC tools, knowledge, and trainings for rehabilitation providers; and (d) SLPs’ attitudes. Participants reported navigating complicated logistics unique to the inpatient rehabilitation related to time constraints, limited AAC funding, the continuum of rehabilitation care, and limited AAC policies in attempting to meet patient needs. Generally, participants suggested successful team collaboration, yet limited time, expertise, tools, and training opportunities challenged attempts to support individuals with complex communication needs. Conclusions: Increased access to AAC tools and the development of AAC trainings are recommended to equip rehabilitation professionals with skills to build interprofessional and AAC skills so patients with complex communication needs can maximally participate in the rehabilitation experience.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)456-468
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican journal of speech-language pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2019


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing

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