How AAC Devices Improve Language

Overcoming speech disorders can be challenging for your loved ones. The lack of ways to communicate may limit their expression or cause frustrations when spending time with their family. This is where AAC comes in.

AAC, or Augmentative and Alternative Communication can help a child or an adult use more of their available skills as supplementary ways to talk. These assisted abilities may help your child jump through speech hurdles that they otherwise might not be able to do without AAC tools.

If your loved one is struggling with speech, they may benefit from an AAC system that’s best-suited for them. Let’s look at how AAC works, its high-tech and simple variations, what benefits it can bring, and how your speech therapist can recommend the right AAC and assist with practicing its use.

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What is AAC?

AAC is the use of different methods, devices and strategies to help in communicating without using speech. There are many ways for children to communicate without using spoken words especially in early stages of development.

AAC may be as simple as using pictures or gestures to communicate. It can also be complex, like high-tech devices where someone will push buttons that correspond with words. Even using facial expression is another form of communication.

These non-verbal alternatives will help your child ‘talk’ more effectively without relying fully on natural speech skills.

Who Needs AAC?

AAC methods and devices may be recommended for both children and adults to enhance their ability to communicate in everyday situations.

It helps with a wide range of language disorders. It may be used to help with developmental disabilities that affect speech including disorders such as autism. It may also be used for individuals with acquired speech disorders, such as those that suffered from a traumatic brain injury or stroke for adults.

Currently, there’s no criteria for starting to use AAC. Even someone with partial or temporary speech disabilities can use AAC. Some needs, like a throat or mouth injury that may recover overtime, should only require basic AAC, while more severe cases will be given high-tech tools for longer-term use.

It can also be used to enable someone to become a multimodal communicator, where they end up using many ways to relay their messages. AAC can be an addition to existing ‘modes’ such as gestures and sign language for individuals with speech disorders.

How Does AAC Help?

AAC helps people with severe speech and language problems. Depending on the disorder, some individuals may need to use it all the time, while some may use it only partially along with speech. AAC can help loved ones be more social with friends, peers and family members. For kids, this means that they can interact more and better with other children at school.

Without AAC, someone with a speech disorder may feel more isolated due to the lack of options to communicate. The feeling of frustration is also common, and they may act out on loved ones.

Without the means of expressing themselves, they may feel a lack of control when family members make important decisions for their lives. Worst of all, it becomes harder for them to show what they can understand and learn, causing their potential to be underestimated.

Using AAC may help your loved one develop a healthier outlook with communication. They may forge stronger relationships and have a greater sense of control and independence in their lives. AAC can also support the development of verbal words and speech.

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Types of Augmentative and Alternative Communication

There are two types of AAC: unaided systems and aided systems. Let’s explore what these options are.

Unaided Systems

These are AAC methods that don’t need tools, props or devices. Hand gestures and sign language, body language, and facial expressions are examples of unaided systems. These tools allow people to use a method that’s already available to them, instead of needing to bring certain props or materials.

Aided Systems

Aided systems are methods that use external tools and devices. Under aided systems are two types as well. Basic (or low-tech) is when you use simple tools (like pen and paper) to assist with effective communication. You can also create communication boards with common day-to-day pictures, for example.

High-tech systems on the other hand, use electronic devices (phones, tablets or their own custom device) to communicate. Some of these devices can even be used to speak in different languages and may even talk for you in the case of speech-generating devices.

Working with a Speech Therapist

Your loved one’s speech therapist (SLP) may recommend AAC both for speech practice sessions and for daily use. With the many available varieties, they may also help with choosing the right AAC for them. Assessing someone’s sensory-motor skills, cognition and other abilities will help with the recommendation.

Their therapist will first assess their speech and language skills and identify the gaps that can be filled by AAC. The daily needs of the person using AAC are considered.

An SLP will then train your loved one in using their AAC tools. Coaching close family members at home as communication partners is also an important component of speech therapy. Daily and functional use of AAC is the best practice for them.

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Augmentative and Alternative Communication helps children and adults gain confidence when communicating. It gives them another avenue to communicate instead of relying on speech alone.

It’s important to have a speech-language pathologist’s help in assessing the situation and finding the right AAC device. They can also train you and your family members on how to use it and how to support your loved one in learning to use it.

To get started with AAC training at the comfort of your home, book a consultation today.

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Lauren Templeton - Apheleia Speech Therapy
Lauren Templeton

Owner & Speech-Language Pathologist

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