Augmentative and Alternative Communication

  • January 24, 2019

  “Communication is the essence of human life”

Communication is used to exchange information make requests, socialize and interact with others. There are many individuals who are unable to use speech as their mode of primary communication; these individuals communicate nonverbally using gestures, facial expressions, and body positions (known collectively as “body language”). Both adults and kids, who do not have sufficient speech to communicate, have access to a specialized area of assistive technology called Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

Augment means to add to or to enhance. For example, we can augment speech by using gestures, eye pointing and body language. Alternative means a choice or a substitute. We can use alternative communication to speech by pointing to symbols, signing or by spelling. Communication means to send and receive messages with at least one other person.

AAC is a type of communication that combines gestures, eye pointing, vocalizations and pointing to symbols as communication for people with limited speech abilities.

AAC Devices

Devices used for communication range from simple to sophisticated. There is a wide array of devices on the market, and they are continually changing. Every individual needs are different, and an AAC system is usually designed specifically for an individual child.

The following are some broad categories of devices

  1. Object symbols– these are objects such as smaller replicas or parts of objects which represent an activity, object or person (for example, a set of keys represents that it’s time to go in the car)
  2. Photos, drawings, symbols– these are used like object symbols to represent words in a visual way
  3. Communication boards and displays– these are sets of photos, drawings, symbols or words that are used by an individual for communication
  4. Chat books– these are small books (often a photo album) that may contain photos, pictures, symbols, words and messages about a person
  5. Speech generating devices– communication boards or displays on a machine which speak a message when a particular button is pressed
  6. Spelling– using an alphabet board or typing device to spell out words and messages.

Every individual needs multiple methods for expressing themselves. Ideally, should not have to rely solely on one method of communication. SLP provides them with an array of communication options they can use now and in the future will help them grow and develop and participate more fully in daily life.

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