communication Support specialists

a.k.a css

A Communication Support Specialist is an individual specially trained to understand the communication needs of individuals living with a wide spectrum of disabilities. They understand the barriers to effective communication and can help individuals overcome those barriers with accommodations that ensure equal access to the justice system and state services.

By helping participants identify the challenges and barriers to effective communication a Communication Support Specialist provides an opportunity for an individual’s full participation in the process to the best of their ability.

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A CSS is

  • Trained to support the communication needs of people with disabilities

  • A neutral party

  • Equipped with tools & strategies for effective communication

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A CSS is not

  • An advocate, lawyer or coach

  • An employee of the court / state

  • An expert in Assistive Technology

  • There to discuss case strategy or bring in new information regarding a case

a functional approach

Every person is considered individually when determining how best to offer communication support. By the time the Communication Specialist meets with a client, there has usually been enough discussion to have a sense of some of the tools and support strategies that may be helpful and/or necessary.  Much of the information needed to provide services is obtained from the client. Often information about effective accommodations is also provided by the individual’s treatment providers with the individual’s consent.  This information is gathered during the intake process.

While taking into account the information gathered in the intake process a CSS will work with the client in developing a plan that will work best for them.  Some of the most important communication planning happens when the Communication Specialist meets with the client prior to the hearing or meeting and at this time there can be a collaborative discussion regarding a person’s needs and supports.  A CSS will never make an assumption about a person’s abilities or needs without an interactive dialogue with the client.


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