PECs, key word sign, PODD, Dynavox, LAMP… words you may have heard before if you have ever investigated an alternative communication system for yourself or your child… but what does it all mean?
The acronym ‘AAC’ stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, and covers all types of communication which are a way to communicate without speech or where speech is used together with another type of communication. AAC can provide a person with a way to communication their wants, needs and feelings. It is designed to help develop social skills, independence, self esteem and general quality of life.
Commonly, a Speech Pathologist may suggest your child use AAC if their speech development is slow, or difficult for others to understand, or to reduce frustration while speech develops. It may also be suggested as a way of communicating most of the time if speech is limited or may also be used to develop understanding of grammar structures, vocabulary and language.
Types of AAC
There are two types of AAC, aided and unaided. Aided communication requires support in addition to the communicators body’, and include things such as pictures, object symbols and communication devices. Unaided communication relies on non-verbal methods of communication, including vocalisation, gesture and sign.
AAC can also be split into two more categories; high and low ‘tech’. This explains whether the communication requires an electronic device or ‘tech’-nology, for example electronic devices such as iPads and Novachat, or whether it requires non-electronic methods for example a communication book or Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS).
Benefits of AAC
Some of the benefits of AAC include that it can add to a person’s existing way of communicating, including speech, gesture and writing. AAC systems can help a child to improve their ability to communicate with others and be understood. It can be an effective way for a child to learn vocabulary and early words as they can connect pictures with what represents a word. For children who respond best to information presented visually, this can be a very useful way to learn language. AAC systems can reduce frustration and stress for both the user and the communication partner as it can take out the guess work in communication.
AAC and oral speech
It is a common concern that AAC slows down the development of speech, however research shows the opposite. That using AAC can actually assist in developing verbal communication.
“Children will use the quickest, most effective, and most accessible way available to them to communicate. Speech beats any other AAC system if it is available to the child. Since AAC includes all communication methods, intervention also addresses improving functional verbal skills. Available research indicates that AAC facilitates spoken language by increasing interaction, language skills, and/or providing a voice output model for speech.” (Cynthia J, Cress PhD)
Choosing the right AAC system
There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right AAC system. These include your child’s current level of communication and interests, as well as the level of assistance they require and your family and culture. Choosing the right AAC system can be a process of trial and error. An AAC trained Speech Pathologist can help guide you through this process, from initial assessment, to applying for funding, to teaching the user how to use the system.
AAC could be a short or a long-term solution for your child’s communication difficulties and can take time to get right. If you are interested in knowing more about alternative and augmented communication and would like to support your child through this, seek assistance from a Speech Pathologist. A Speech Pathologist would be able to assess your child’s strengths and limitations, and deliver 1-on-1 therapy to address their needs.
If you would like to know more about how a Speech Pathologist can help, please contact the practice on 9890 1062 to arrange a free 15 minute telephone conversation with a Speech Pathologist.