Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC)... What is it?!
AAC tools and devices aim to facilitate, supplement, or replace verbal speech. Verbal speech can be impaired or lost for a variety of reasons, including developmental delays, intellectual disabilitiy, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), or degenerative neuromuscular disorders.
Surprising AAC Facts
1. You probably know of someone that is an AAC user...
Perhaps the most famous AAC user is Stephen Hawking, who suffered from a degenerative neuromuscular disease that resulted in the loss of his verbal speech. With the help of a high-tech, speech generating device, Hawking was able to continue to express his thoughts long after he lost his abiltity to verbally speak- allowing him to remain a respected and engaged member of society.
For those of us that are Saints fans, Steve Gleason is another notable AAC user who uses a high-tech, speech generating device. His access to AAC has allowed him to become an advocate for those without a voice- lending his name and support to the Gleason Act which secures AAC funding for patients with ALS.
2. AAC doesn't have to be speech-generating...
Many options for AAC don't generate a synthesized voice. In the ABC televised series Speechless, the main character JJ, uses a low-tech speech board and laser pointer to communicate. Yes/No cards and choice boards are a few other examples of low tech AAC options.
3. AAC isn't just for people who have motor impairments...
While the most notable AAC users are those individuals whose physical impairments limit their verbal speech, it's important to know that AAC isn't just for them! AAC can be a great way for individuals with Autism or Cognitive Disabilities to communicate with those around them. AAC advocates firmly believe that every person should have the ablity to express their thoughts, desires, and needs, regardless of their complexity or variety.
4. High Tech AAC devices are more than just speech generators...
Many high tech AAC devices (like the ones used by Hawkings and Gleason) also provide users access to phones, text messaging, and the internet. Many of these high tech devices can also support environmental control units that allow the user to access and control common electronic household items like their TV, AC, and lights.
5 Common AAC Myths Dispelled
1. Using AAC with children that aren't speaking yet can delay or prevent their desire or ability to verbally communicate in the future.
Research shows that this is simply not true! Using AAC actually increases the opportunties for modeling languag and can help show a child the true function of language and communication. In fact, some AAC users actually start to use or expand their verbal speech.
2. The AAC user must type out every word in every thought they want to express - making AAC usage too difficult and time consuming for my loved one.
Much research has been done to determine which words are used most frequently in language and communication (core words). AAC tools and devices are thoughtfully set up to provide easy access to these high frequency (core) words- greatly reducing the amount of time and effort exerted by an AAC user.
Most wants, needs, and novel thougths can be expressed without speaking in full, grammatically correct sentences. Most thoughts can be expressed with 2, 3 or 4 word combinations.
3. The use of AAC devices with pre-programmed words or phrases will prevent the AAC user from generating and expressing their own unique thoughts.
AAC tools and devices can be individualized. This allows the user express their own thoughts by combining unique phrases with pre-programed words or phrases- saving them time and effort.
4. I can't support my child or loved one using an AAC device because I am not computer savvy.
Low tech AAC options (like picture exchange systems or communication boards) can build to higher tech options- allowing caregivers and loved ones to learn gradually over time how to use AAC devices.
High tech, speech generating devices often come with 24/7 tech support- ensuring you have reliable and constant access to professionals that can problem solve and fix technical glitches.
5. I can understand my loved one and anticipate their needs so they don't need a device to help them communicate their wants and needs.
If life progresses as we expect, our children will out live us. Here at Abilities, we realize that this is a scary reality for many parents that have a child with a disability. While it is a painful truth to point out, it is critically important to keep in mind, so that we stay dedicated to the goal of arming ALL children with an accessible, clear, and consistent means to clearly communicate their wants and needs not just to us, but to others too.
While we all wish for ourselves and for our loved ones a life of comfort, ease, and joy- sometimes the cards we are dealt can restrict our access to certain opportunities that inherently bring about a life of comfort, ease, and joy. Here at Abilities, we believe that giving your child a voice is a GIANT step towards access to those opportunties.
Let us help your child find their voice! Give us a call at 225.292.4138 to schedule an AAC evaluation today!