Above is a photo of REKNEW staff testing new apps and hardware with a consultant with lived experience of complex communication needs, her communication partner and the engineers who are developing the technology.

The REKNEW Projects team is a very diverse group of individuals. Our collaborative team includes professionals across the country with expertise in speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, psychology, special education, public health, neurology and neurophysiology, computer science, engineering and systems science, as well as experts who live with complex communication needs.

We work within the Institute on Development and Disability and the University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities within the Department of Pediatrics at OHSU.

  • We specialize in addressing the communication needs of children and adults with developmental, acquired and/or neurodegenerative disabilities.
  • We believe in the tenets of the Communication Bill of Rights and support individuals and their families to reach their highest potential for communication and participation.
  • We believe in a functional approach to communication intervention.
  • Our research is based on the principles of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and participatory action research, with a focus on including people with lived experience of complex communication needs and their families.
  • Our research is designed to inform clinical practice and provide evidence for practice guidelines in speech-language pathology and AAC.
  • Our research and teaching strategies are widely published and presented to national and international audiences.

Mission statement

The REKNEW Projects have two major goals: to develop practical methods to support children and adults with developmental challenges or neurodegenerative disease to communicate successfully; and to collect scientific evidence of the effectiveness of those methods.


Our translational research is based on previous studies of ways to help children and adults with congenital and acquired disorders to communicate. We conduct our studies in the homes of our participants with their families and caregivers. We include study participants in the planning and conduct of our research studies.

In 1983, an international organization was founded to address the complex communication needs of people who cannot rely on speech or writing as their primary means of expression. The field was called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). As AAC specialists, we explore ways that people can interact with others who rely on computers, books, gestures and signs, speech and eye gaze, speech generating devices, and communication boards. We believe that everyone CAN communicate and that everyone DOES communicate. It is our mission to research ways that individuals can interact functionally and successfully in their daily environments using many different means of expression.

AAC specialists come from many fields. We are speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, educators, psychologists, engineers, family members, physicians and nurses, manufacturers and developers, and people with disabilities. Initially, AAC specialists put most of their clinical research attention on the needs of adults with cerebral palsy and children with developmental disabilities. Over the years, the group of individuals who benefit from communication supports has expanded. We have learned that everyone with complex communication needs can benefit from AAC.

Dr. Melanie Fried-Oken, Ph.D., CCC/Sp, is a certified speech-language pathologist and a leading international clinician and researcher in the field of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Her past research has involved assistive technology for persons with acquired disabilities who cannot use speech or writing for expression.

Under the umbrella of the REKNEW projects, Dr. Fried-Oken and her staff have pooled their expertise to address the challenges that children and adults with complex communication needs experience.