Ideas for Integrating AAC in Life

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Some people with Down syndrome may benefit from some form of AAC at some point in their lives to supplement their communication. Some people use AAC because they have difficulty articulating, while others use it to support their memory and thinking for communicating their ideas.

It takes some time to find the right AAC device for a person’s needs. If you are just starting to explore options, you can work with your family providers or school network to determine what’s right for your loved one. Communication Devices by Sheri  Lanyi, MA, CCC-SLP

The DSAGC's T.E.L.L. program for adults with Down syndrome focuses on enhancing communication by providing useful, beneficial, and personalized supports for each participant. The goal is to increase individual progress when interacting with others to effectively communicate wants and needs. The class is led by University of Cincinnati Speech-Language Pathology graduate students under the supervision of a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). Our SLP is happy to discuss your loved ones most effective ways to communicate, share resources to start exploring AAC options, and work together to meaningfully integrate supports into the program. 

Tips for Using AAC Devices/Supports at Home

Excerpt from Down Syndrome Resource Foundation

Always Have It Available
•    Where is your AAC device at home?
•    It’s important to give your AAC user access to an AAC system all the time. That means that it’s charged, within reach or always in the same place.

Model, Model, Model
•    As we know, children learn to talk by hearing their parents and other people around them speak. The same goes for AAC learners! They also need to see what using an AAC system looks like when communicating with others. There is sometimes a misconception that AAC is “magic”, and a student should be able to use it fluently right away, but that is far from the truth. Students need to be taught how to use their systems. We cannot expect them to learn to use AAC without being shown how to use it. A Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) can teach you how to model using the device at home.
•    You can model their system by pointing to words as you talk with your AAC user. Modeling using AAC is sometimes called Aided Language Stimulation (ALS) and is one of the most valuable tools when learning AAC!
•    Being a caregiver that knows your child best is extremely valuable when learning AAC! Why? You can interpret your child’s communication better than anyone else and model language for them that fits that situation.
•    Start by modelling the most important or core words - you do not need to model every single word you say. Always model at or slightly above your AAC user’s language level.
•    AAC users with Down syndrome especially benefit from repetition when learning their system. Modeling AAC within routines will provide them with multiple opportunities to see AAC being used. You can model the same words in different routines or model different words in the same routine. It totally depends on your level of comfortability and your AAC user. The main takeaway here is to make sure to provide them with multiple models of words so they can learn them and use them when they are ready. Which brings me to my next tip…

Find opportunities to use it in your day!
•    Once you feel comfortable modeling, find natural opportunities to use it in your daily routine! Your AAC user will learn their device faster the more you build in opportunities for them to use it. And what better way to build in natural opportunities than at home. The more opportunities they get to practice, the more likely they will generalize their language skills with different activities and people.

Talk About: 
•    What or who you see
•    Whose turn it is
•    What happened
•    What you want or must do
•    What you are doing
•    Where to put things
•    You like / Don’t like
•    Feelings and emotions
•    Categories of words like animals, clothing, food, etc.
•    Action words like see, want, go, put, have, stop, play etc.
•    Location words like up, down, in, out, on, under, etc.
•    Description words like fast, slow, big, small, colors, etc.
•    If you want to continue (more/again) or not (all-done)

Tips for Using AAC Devices/Supports in the Classroom

Excerpt from Katie Threlkeld, M.S., CCC-SLP

In the classroom setting, AAC can play a crucial role in helping students who require assistance with communication. There are many ways to integrate AAC into this classroom such as communication boards, visual supports, and training communication partners. Learn more


October Re-Cap

October was jam-packed with programs, advocacy, community, and many mission-filled moments! Here are just a few highlights that happened over the last 31 days.

  • School Support & Outreach: We've been at schools all over Greater Cincinnati attending school meetings with families as a liaison and doing classroom peer presentations. Don't forget - our School Age Coordinator is available to help provide direction about the IEP process, effective teaching strategies, making social connections, and more!
  • T.E.L.L. Program: Our 10-week speech program for adults with Down syndrome started this month. This program is led by University of Cincinnati Speech-Language Pathology graduate students under the supervision of licensed Speech-Language Pathologist, Kendra Thornock.
  • Find Your Way: Find Your Way is a new collection of programs focusing on self-determination in adults with Down syndrome. Part of this program includes two weekend overnight retreats, and our "Navigate" retreat took place this month. 
  • Empowerment Series: Our Empowerment Series are classes that occur once a week for 3 - 6 weeks. These programs focus on learning a new skill or trying a new activity. The following Empowerment Series started or took place in October - Martial Arts, Theatre, Self-Defense, Music Therapy, Lifelong Learning Labs, Movement & Motivation, and Gymnastics.
  • Socials Opportunities: We offer dozens of social opportunities each quarter. Here are some of the socials that took place in October - Mural Visit, Halloween Parties (six of them), Singles Mixer, Football Watch Party, Art and Apps, Lego Party, and our Weekly Playgroup.
  • Photography Day: Each year, we host a day for families to come get their photos taken by professional photographers in a comfortable setting! This year, we had six photographers donate their time and talent for this event.
  • Town Hall with Rep Greg Landsman: We hosted a Town Hall Meeting with Congressman Greg Landsman and State Representative Dani Isaacsohn. In a packed house, we discussed some issues regarding our community - including housing and employment. 
  • Community Outreach Events: Our outreach team has been busy attending many events in the community to further awareness and acceptance.
  • Community Group Fun: Our FABULOUS volunteer community group leaders were busy hosting events to build connections in their areas, birth year groups, and more!
  • IEP 101 Workshops: We hosted two IEP workshops this month - one for younger families starting school and one for our Spanish-speaking families.
  • .....and so much more happened in October! Be sure to follow us on facebook or instagram to see more DSAGC happenings.

Upcoming Programs and Events


NDSS Adult Summit

November 9 - November 11 
Hyatt Regency Downtown

We are excited to partner with the National Down Syndrome Society for their annual Adult Summit this year! Hundreds from across the country will be coming to Cincinnati for three days of connection and educational sessions on a variety of topics that address adulthood and aging for the community.

The NDSS Adult Summit covers aging and Down syndrome through a whole-person, comprehensive approach. Content will overlap ages and subject areas, providing attendees with information and practical resources. This conference is a great educational opportunity for individuals with Down syndrome and other disabilities, family members, and professionals. 

Separate interactive breakout session tracks for adults with Down syndrome and caregivers/professionals will be available throughout the weekend.

Use code "DSAGC" for a 30% discount.

To sign-up to be a volunteer for the conference and for more information about the volunteer roles/times, please use this link:  NDSS Adult Summit 2023 - Volunteer Sign-Up


Holiday Party

Saturday, December 9 
Cincinnati Museum Center 

Cincinnati Museum Center is a one-of-a-kind, multi-museum complex housed in Union Terminal, a historic Art Deco train station and National Historic Landmark. During the holiday party, your family will have access to the entire museum including the Children’s Museum. There will be an area for DSAGC families to meet privately with Santa, enjoy treats, and pick up their holiday gift!


Giving Tree Program

The Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati supports families through a variety of life circumstances. The Giving Tree program is a way to offer support for families who may need a helping hand during the holiday season. Generous sponsors provide items from wish lists provided by the families in need to ensure children have special gifts to open.


If you are a family in the local Down syndrome community and need assistance this holiday season, please consider registering for the Giving Tree program. All children in a family unit (18 years old and younger) and adults with Down syndrome are eligible to receive gifts from sponsors valued at $50 - $60 per person (no electronics or bicycles, please). You will have the opportunity to share gift suggestions and clothing sizes for your child(ren). Eligible families must have a child or adult with Down syndrome and live in the DSAGC twelve-county area. Please note, your information will be kept confidential and only seen by the Giving Tree committee. Your gifts will be available for pick up at the DSAGC Office in early to mid-December. Registration closes before Thanksgiving. If you are looking for assistance after Thanksgiving, please contact Maggie Ranz at or 513-761-5400.


Our generous sponsors are the backbone of the giving tree program. We rely on sponsors to make sure families who may need a helping hand can have a special holiday season with their loved ones. As a sponsor, you can select how many children you’d like to sponsor. The suggested gift range is $50-$60 per child. Sponsors can drop off gifts at the DSAGC Office (4623 Wesley Avenue, Suite A Cincinnati, Ohio 45212) any time. After signing up to be a sponsor, you will receive a confirmation email along with more information and wish lists from our Giving Tree committee within 3 - 5 days.

In 2022, the Giving Tree program provided gifts for 71 families totaling 216 children. Each family also received a book and a gift card to purchase food.


Family Connections

Community Groups

Community Groups provide support, information, and be a resource while creating a warm, welcoming, empathetic environment. We have a wide variety of groups by area and interest.
Learn more

Social Clubs

Social Clubs meet monthly and serve as an opportunity for our adults with Down syndrome to take a leadership role in planning and implementing their own social activities.
Learn more

Teen Club

Our Teen Club is designed for teens to meet monthly for additional social and learning opportunities.
Learn more

DS/ASD Support Group

In an effort to support families with loved ones who have or who suspect to have a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and autism (ASD), the DSAGC offers a support group for parents and caregivers. The goal of this group is to connect families to help support one another by talking through challenges and successes while guided by a qualified group facilitator. Participants can benefit from the facilitator’s knowledge of strategies to help in extra stressful situations. They can encourage each other as caregivers and can share and learn firsthand about resources to help in the many stages of this journey.

Learn more


Family Assistance

Transportation Assistance Fund

The DSAGC understands that some members in our community face challenges getting to and from important activities and appointments. To help, we established the Transportation Assistance Fund (TAF). The TAF provides financial assistance to parents or caregivers so they can obtain dependable and convenient transportation to DSAGC programs and events, or medical and therapy appointments for their loved one with Down syndrome.

transportation assistance fund application in english

transportation assistance fund application in spanish

Hospital Care Packages

We deliver care packages to individuals with Down syndrome who are admitted to the hospital. Our care packages include meal tickets, snacks, cards, activities, books, and more.

Learn more

Community Participation Fund

We have a limited amount of scholarships available for individuals with Down syndrome to participate in community activities (such as camps, soccer, swim lessons) and therapies.  There is also funding available for parents to attend educational meetings or conferences.  We pay half of the request (up to $250 per year). You must live within our 12 county area to be eligible.  

Learn more


Thank you, Katie!

Our internship program provides a healthy learning environment for adults with Down syndrome as they learn transferrable skills for future employment in the community. All internships are paid, and interns are part of the DSAGC staff during their term.

Katie's last day as our 2023 intern was on October 30th! She accomplished so much this year and learned skills that will help her at her next job. We are so proud of her. Don't worry - you will still see Katie around the office as she participates in MANY of our DSAGC programs!

If you'd like to see a snapshot of Katie's work, view this video:


We are hiring!

Aging Specialist 

Our Aging Specialist will focus on the needs of adults with Down syndrome over the age of 35 as their needs are complex, diverse, and ever-changing. Some of those needs might include future planning, healthy aging, caregiver support, and independent skills. The person in this role must be comfortable balancing the demands of providing education and support to families and care providers of older adults with Down syndrome as well as have program development and management skills. The person in this role will also devote consistent time to resource research and community networking.

View the full job description

To apply, please send a cover letter and resume to Jenn Schott at


Research Opportunities


Community Happenings


Down Syndrome Association of Greater Cincinnati
4623 Wesley Avenue, Suite A | Cincinnati, Ohio 45212
513-761-5400 |

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