What is AAC?
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to any strategy, technique or tool that enhances, replaces or supplements an individual’s ability to communicate verbally. This includes everything from using sign language, or pointing to words or symbols, to using one of many specialist devices that can generate speech for the user.
Assistive Technology is any device that enables a person to do something that they might otherwise have had difficulty with. Special mouse and keyboard alternatives, (like keyboards with extra large keys and letters to support those with visual or fine motor control difficulties or a mouse that is controlled with head movement, or a computer that is controlled with only eye movements) can make the difference between being able to use a computer or not.
Who can use AAC?
Anyone whose communication is affected by an impairment of speech, language, physical ability or intellect, can use AAC.
What are the benefits of AAC?
There are too many to mention! Communication is such an important function of life that without it, people are severely negatively affected:
- Pain cannot be expressed or managed effectively
- Learning is affected as people cannot express what they know or ask questions to clarify their understanding
- People are more likely to develop challenging behaviour as a result of frustration and lack of engagement
- Relationships are affected and isolation is more likely in non-verbal people
- Depression and isolation are more likely
- Non-verbal people are at a higher risk for abuse and neglect
All of this can be positively affected by using an appropriate AAC system: people are empowered to engage meaningfully, enhance their social interaction, increase independence and express their personal thoughts and needs.
How to choose the right Assistive Technology or AAC resource?
Making the right choice depends on many factors, including:
- the user’s visual, physical, language and intellectual abilities
- the environment in which the device/system will be used
- the abilities and needs of the communication partners
- the features, flexibility and capabilities of the resource
The choice of AAC and Assistive Technology system should be made in partnership with those involved – where possible, the user themselves, their family, therapists and other communication partners. The needs and abilities of the user are then carefully matched to the features offered by various systems, and the best choices are selected.