AAC Options: Everyone has something to say

People with communication difficulties may feel frustrated, angry or even embarrassed when they try to communicate their needs, ideas, and opinions.

Imagine if nothing you said was understood by those around you, as if you were living in a foreign land and didn’t speak the language. This is the everyday struggle of many people with a communication difficulty. This is where AAC options can help.

What do we mean by AAC?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Sounds like jargon we know, but it’s an easier way to say “all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas.” This might be using pictures, written text, signing, gestures or a dedicated communication device.

We often think about AAC as only being used for people who don’t use verbal speech, however, this isn’t the case. Did you know that we all use some form of AAC everyday? When we point to an item on a high shelf we’re using AAC. When we send a text message to a friend, we’re using AAC. When we use emojis in our text message to add meaning, we’re using AAC. Just because a person can ‘talk’ doesn’t mean they don’t have a need for AAC.

How can we help?

At Small TALK speech therapy, we work with children and adolescents to help them find their voice. This is so they can connect with others in their world. We work to trial a range of communication systems to identify a robust AAC system that allows them to communicate about what they want, where they want. This might be by setting them up with a high tech communication device, or a low tech communication board.

When considering AAC, there is a huge range of different options from simple printed boards, to high-tech dedicated devices with speech output. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ with AAC – every child is different, and one communication system might work for one child, but not for another. We work with clients and their families to find the system that best suits them.

Just a few AAC Options

When we talk about AAC there are 2 broad categories – unaided AAC and aided AAC.

Unaided AAC is any form of communication (other than speech) that we can complete with just our body. Examples might include, signing, facial expressions and gestures.

Aided AAC is a form of communication that needs an ‘aid’ to assist. There are 2 forms of aided AAC – high tech and low tech. Low tech AAC is AAC that doesn’t have a battery or voice-output, think a pencil, or a visual board. High-tech on the other hand has a battery (or power source) and generally has some form of speech output.

Speech Generating Devices

A Speech Generating Device (or SGD) is a high-tech AAC that speaks out loud when buttons are selected. The speech might be pre-programmed, like in iPad apps, or may be recorded on to the device. SGD range in their capabilities and features, but some examples include text to speech, basic and more complex symbol based communication and video media which can be accessed on an iPad, tablet or dedicated device. SGDs may be more common than you think with more than “13,000 Australians using electronic communication aids to get their message across” (Speech Pathology Australia).

The marketplace is flooded with choices and it’s really important to work with a speech pathologist to help you figure out which option will suit your child the best.

PODD Books

PODD stands for Pragmatically Organised Dynamic Display. Basically, it’s a book of organised symbols that can be used for many different purposes including:

  • expressing opinions
  • telling stories
  • asking questions
  • making requests
  • commenting and sharing information
  • protesting and objecting

 

Visuals

A visual refers to an aid that represents a spoken word or phrase. Visuals can be in the form of photographs, symbols, text, or drawings. We use visuals often to

  • teach new concepts
  • help kids understand more about a topic or sequence
  • teach new vocabulary
  • help children to become less reliant on adults

 

Core Vocabulary Boards

Another tool we love ❤ to use with our clients is core vocabulary communication boards.  These are fixed boards that contain the most commonly used and useful words to use in a simple conversation. At Small TALK we have communication boards in every room of our clinic and many of our clients also have them at home and school. Have a look at some examples of communication boards and the research behind them at http://www.project-core.com 

AAC Options for all

As we said, there is no one size fits all when it comes to AAC, it takes time and may take a few attempts with different types of AAC before the right fit is found. Once we find that perfect AAC, we advocate strongly for that AAC system to be used in the home, school, business, and community because everyone has something to say.

You might also enjoy our other blog topics:

Tips for Creating Visuals

Teaching your child their first words

Building your child’s language skills

How to get the most out of speech therapy