Lots of children and adults have difficulty speaking, but this doesn’t have to get in the way of their communication!
Alternative and Augmentative Communication (or AAC) is a term used to describe a therapy approach that seeks to increase someone’s ability to communicate and participate in their preferred activities, often using more than one way of communicating.
This can include lots of things in different combinations, for example;
- Speech or Vocalisations
- Gesture and Body Language
- Signing (Auslan or Key Word Sign)
- Communication Boards
- High tech devices that do the talking for you (iPad apps or stand-alone devices)
Who might use an AAC device?
AAC can be useful at all ages, from toddlers with language delays, through to elderly people who are having trouble communicating after a stroke. People with cognitive or physical disabilities that impact their ability to communicate may benefit, and the families and carers of these people will benefit from having a greater ability to understand and make themselves understood.
“But I know what she wants- she doesn’t need to tell me”
We know our family members so well we can probably guess what they might want to tell us, but they have the right to tell us themselves. Besides, communicating isn’t only functional, but social. Helping a person to increase their ability to communicate increases their ability to be involved in their communities, make important decisions, and increases their quality of life.
“Won’t it stop her from talking?”
Some parents are concerned that using an AAC strategy might impede their child’s speech development. It’s reasonable for parents to have this concern, but AAC doesn’t need to replace speech but compliment or ‘augment’ it. In fact, the research tells us that the use of AAC devices does not slow down the development of speech, and it may even help speed it up. Speech devices can benefit children with speech delays or disorders whether or not they have cognitive impairments.
“She has been like this for years, it won’t work”
Sometimes we might think someone has reached their communication potential. In fact, the person may not have had the correct tools for their communication skills to flourish. Depending on the individual, it may take some time to develop the new skills, but all that hard work pays off when they are better able to express themselves.
“How do I choose the right kind of AAC for me or my loved one?”
A speech pathologist can help you to decide which methods might be most appropriate for you. They can help guide you in implementing and practicing with your new technique or device, and help navigate the roadblocks to improved communication.