Kelcy Rolak

Date Approved


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

Special Education and Communication Sciences and Disorders

Committee Member

Sarah M. Ginsberg, Ed.D., CCC-SLP

Committee Member

Jacquelyn McGinnis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lauren Zimmerman, M.A., CCC-SLP


Employing a multiple case study approach, this study explored the perspectives of parents of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) on their child’s use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Deemed “AAC co-pilots” by this study, these parents play a crucial role in their children’s daily AAC use, yet their perspective is largely under-explored in existing research that otherwise explores AAC use by individuals with ASD extensively. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with parents of children with ASD who have used AAC for at least one year and whose AAC use is documented in their IEP. Findings indicated the depth and significance of the parental role of co-pilot to their child’s AAC use, namely as a co-pilot whose keen observations lend to a deep understanding of their child’s communication, a staunch facilitator of device support and navigation, and a crucial conversation partner. The facets of the role, and the many individual efforts and insights that accumulate to form them, converge under the common goal of supporting, encouraging, and promoting successful communication by the pilot, the child AAC user. From the data emerged the vital importance and significance of the co-pilot as a foremost presence in their child’s AAC use and the need for this role to be supported, encouraged, and fostered in the implementation of AAC.