Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
Augmentative/alternative communication includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. Universal methods of communication include multiple strategies such as pointing, writing, smiling, and texting, for example.
People with complex communication needs rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or to be used in place of natural speech. A variety of tools are available to assist communication ranging from simple paper boards to high tech computer systems. Use of such tools will increase social interaction, school performance, feelings of self-worth and the ability to direct one’s care.
If a child or adult requires assistance in communication through alternative strategies, an assessment can be provided that highlights the following:
- The nature of the communication problem that leads to reduced speech intelligibility or verbal output.
- The current levels of functional communication, e.g., is the individual able to communicate basic needs and is communication at a concrete or abstract level?
- The method of current communication, e.g., speech, writing, pointing, speech generating device (SGD).
- Physical abilities to use alternative strategies, e.g., can an individual use his/her index finger for touching a picture or screen, use a mouse with computer, use switches, use a head mouse through infra-red technology or use eye gaze?
- Determination of need for organized communication display, e.g., does the individual need pictures, photographs, words, pre-stored phrases, text to speech as part or whole of the communication system? Does the individual require a many layered approach to accessing elaborate vocabulary or are they at a level of requiring a few basic requests due to use of other strategies or developmental levels?
- Determination of operational skills, e.g., can the individual carry the SGD independently, do they need to need it mounted to a wheelchair, can they turn it on/off independently, can they charge the device or turn pages in a communication binder? Can they navigate from one page to another on a touch screen such as an iPad or iPod Touch?
- Circle of Support, e.g., will the individual with complex communication needs be supported by the team including family, caregivers, friends, peers, teachers and therapists?