Communication is something so many of us take for granted. For children and adults with nonverbal autism, however, communicating is difficult.
Parents, speech-language pathologists, speech therapists, and special education teachers have to help these individuals by training them to use alternative means of communication. Specifically, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices and strategies. AAC devices are a great solution for people with autism because it bridges the gap between frustration and self-expression.
What is Augmentative & Alternative Communication?
Augmentative and alternative communication or AAC assists a variety of individuals, including those with autism and cerebral palsy. AAC can come in various forms. Someone who writes in a notebook to speak to others or makes gestures is already utilizing AAC to solve problems.
Pointing to pictures in a book or using a tablet with augmentative and alternative communication software are also very powerful solutions. The fastest-growing type of AAC is on widely-available tablet devices, whereby specialized apps are employed.
AAC gives people with expressive learning disabilities or other conditions like deafness or speech impairment a voice in the world. Giving an adult or child the ability to speak is very empowering.
3 Components of AAC
AAC has three components or parts. These are symbols, aids (devices), and strategies. When these components are put together, you have an alternative solution to communication. The system allows both children and adults to effectively convey their wishes and needs, thereby giving them a voice even if they weren’t born with one.
Symbols are images, objects, or pictures that stand for something else. In our everyday world, we’re pretty familiar with these. One such example is using an envelope to symbolize mail or even email. These symbols are broken down into two groups, aided and unaided.
An unaided symbol is a gesture you can make or a sound (vocalization). Aided symbols are miniature objects or real ones, symbols sets, or photographs. Not all symbols have an obvious meaning. Some require us to interpret the meaning — these range from picture symbols to markings that represent different ideas or objects. Our app, Avatalker AAC uses the most realistic images possible to avoid confusion and frustration.
2. AAC Aids and Devices
Augmentative & alternative communication aids can be low tech or high tech. These aids and devices are just a way to relay ideas and information to individuals. A pen and paper is one such aid. Other examples are tablets and mobile devices that speak when you tap words or symbols. Through the years, AAC technology has evolved from simple fixed image tools to touch screen devices where whole sentences can be created, then spoken via a text-to-speech engine.
In today’s world, you don’t need to buy a proprietary touch-screen device costing thousands of dollars to give your child an AAC communicator. Apps like Avatalker AAC can be installed on an iPad or iPad Mini, making them a much more portable and affordable solution.
3. Strategies for Using Augmentative & Alternative Communication
Strategies for effective communication with augmentative & alternative communication depend on age and skill level. These strategies are aimed at maximizing communication skills. The goal should be to start with basic needs communication and move to more complex communication as capabilities allow.
Some ways to teach your child to express their wants, needs, and desires via AAC apps are:
- Provide as many opportunities as possible for learning.
- Ensure you have your child’s full attention when teaching.
- Use “core” words in the activities you do throughout the day to enforce ideas. Car, for instance, could be used. “Let’s get in the car.” “Get the groceries out of the car.”
- Support regular communication throughout the day.
- Incentivize using your AAC app as a fun activity, but stop before frustration sets in.
- Accept and encourage all forms of communication.
How Avatalker AAC Can Help
Avatalker AAC can do so much for you and your child. This easy to use, affordable solution provides a bridge in communication via an iPad or iPad Mini app. With two stages, Avatalker AAC allows individuals of all abilities to speak. Our stage one strategy is for basic wants and needs, while stage two’s strategy allows more complicated phrases and full sentences.
The vocabulary is organized by semantic association into separate categories. This offers frustration-free communication. There’s even a question conversion button that transforms a sentence into a question.