Augmentative and Alternative Communication

 

  • Any individual who finds it difficult to verbally communicate may be able to express themselves through augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).
  • AAC may incorporate the use of gestures, facial expressions, sign language, picture symbol communication boards and writing.  Today, special electronic AAC devices (high tech and low tech) are available to those with severe speech and language impairments.
  • Depending on the individual, an AAC system may be utilized as an additional support method to a moderately impaired verbal communicator, or in more severe cases, the AAC system may act as the sole replacement for expressive speech output altogether.
  • Those who are able to communicate with an AAC system show increases in social interaction, academic performance, feelings of self-confidence, and independence. In addition, feelings of frustration may decrease as the individual is given the tools to be able to request wants and needs.
  • Common diagnoses which have shown to benefit from AAC systems are as follows: autism, cerebral palsy and a number of other congenital birth conditions, verbal apraxia (unable to execute words), cleft palate, general language delay, hearing impairments, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease), cerebral vascular accident (stroke), multiple sclerosis, total or partial laryngectomy, and brain tumors (affecting the motor speech or broca’s area).
  • Most importantly, although AAC systems are used to enhance expressive communication, if an individual can speak, even just minimally, they should continue to do so with the support of AAC.
  • If an individual requires an AAC evaluation, it would be conducted by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) with a consulting team of physicians, other therapists, psychologists, social workers and teachers who can provide additional and valuable information during the assessment process.

Informational AAC Reference Websites:

  1. American Speech-Hearing Association, www.asha.org
  2. International Society for Augmentative & Alternative Communication, www.isaac-online.org
  3. AAC Institute, www.aacinstitute.org
  4. DynaVox& Mayor-Johnson, www.dynavox.com
  5. YAACK, www.aac.unl.edu/yaack.

 

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