What is AAC?

When you hear the term “communication”, most people immediately think of the words we say in conversation or on the phone, or what we read in books or through technology. But what about those of us who cannot speak or have difficulty speaking to people around them? How do they communicate their wants and needs to people passing by in the street? This is where Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) is introduced. AAC refers to providing alternatives (alternative communication) and/or adding to the way a person communicates (augmentative communication). As speech pathologists, we are professionals in communication and can recommend a range of different ways with which our clients can communicate. The best part about AAC is that anyone can use it – people with autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, and even kids who are still developing their language.

There are two types of AAC

No or Low Tech includes methods of communicating that do not rely on battery powered devices. They are often the most cost effective option and require the person speaking to have a communication partner with them to understand what they are saying. They are versatile and can be carried and used anywhere without worry of charging the battery or expensive electronic repairs. They are often the starting point in AAC. Some examples of No or Low Tech AAC are:
  • Signing (Key Word Sign)
  • Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
  • Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) Book
  • Picture Boards
  • Whiteboard and Pen

High Tech includes means of communication which requires technology to function. They are often devices like iPads with applications which assist in communication. There are a wide variety of apps that are created to assist in communication and your speech pathologist can recommend a variety to suit you. High Tech AAC devices can be taken almost everywhere but do require care as all electronics need to be charged and repairs can be costly. Due to this, it is always recommended that a High Tech AAC user has a Low Tech AAC backup in case of emergencies. High Tech devices often have synthesised voices to read out the message typed onto the device and therefore anyone – known or unknown to the user – can understand the message. They enable anyone to be able to communicate regardless of their physical or verbal ability.

Some examples of High Tech AAC are:

    • iPads with apps installed such as Proloquo2Go, COMPASS, Lamp etc.
    • Tobii Dynavox
    • Eye gaze devices
    • Speech generating devices
    • Switch/Button devices
When it comes to choosing which type of AAC is the most suitable, your speech pathologist will perform a trial to find the best AAC options for you. Some companies will let you trial High Tech devices for a free for a period of time to allow you to determine how well the device suits your communication needs. It is important to trial different AAC options to ensure you find a device that you are comfortable with and that meets your communication needs.

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