My AAC, My Voice | SPD - Singapore

My AAC, My Voice


October is the international month for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Sarah Yong, SPD’s head of clinical services at our Specialised Assistive Technology Centre (Specialised ATC) shares more on how AAC has enabled persons with communication difficulties to interact and communicate with others.

Do you know that Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) includes all of the ways we share our ideas and feelings without talking? Everyone uses AAC in one form or another every day. We use AAC when we gesture or use facial expressions. We may write a note and pass it to a friend. When we have a sore throat, we may choose to type or use text messaging or ‘whatsapp’ to communicate. These are forms of AAC.

AAC empowers individuals who have communication difficulties to express their needs, wants, ideas and dreams. There are many different types of AAC systems. Gestures, communication charts and high tech computerised devices are examples of AAC systems that people use to express themselves.

Let’s meet two of our clients who have benefited from using AAC – Eric Yao and Denis Koh.

Eric (above) had a stroke when he was in his twenties, resulting in challenges with his speech, mobility and fine motor co-ordination. Eric trialed several AAC devices and is currently using a communication application uploaded onto his tablet computer to communicate.

"After two years of lying in bed doing almost nothing productive, I was introduced to SPD. Beyond my expectations, there are many devices for people with special needs and a group of specialists training us to use them. Along the way, I learned how to maximise the use of my Microsoft Surface Pro as my communication device. SPD helped to make this happen. Till now, I'm still learning from them," said Eric. He now communicates face-to-face and online, and has met and spoken with prominent individuals, including Singapore’s President, Madam Halimah Yacob.

Denis (above) is another stroke survivor whose condition affected his ability to speak. When he was referred to SPD in 2017, he was using an alphabet board to communicate with his caregivers. To improve the effectiveness of his communication, we prescribed him with an AAC application to be used with an iPad and keyguard so that it is easier for him to type on the iPad. His caregivers were also trained in using the tools so as to support him in his communication when needed.

With these tools, he is able to communicate with others with greater ease. He is now heading the pen pal project at the Specialised ATC where he emails other clients who are also using AAC. Here’s what he told us through his AAC:

“I am Denis Koh. I have no voice yet. Luckily I have AAC – Touch Chat app and my new iPad to help me to communicate with others, and relate all my thoughts to others. Now I can type emails, chat in Whatsapp chat with my friends. I can go to my Facebook to chat. It made my life easier now. I still have many things to learn from my iPad and Touch Chat. P.S. The keyguard is very helpful to me too.”

His caregiver added that using AAC has been a good experience for him. He is now able to get in touch with his ex-colleagues and read the news online, which he was not able to do before.

The use of AAC has encouraged social participation, built up confidence and enhanced the quality of life of these two clients. We hope that more of our clients with speech difficulties will find their voice through the use of AAC.