Finding Your Voice, Breaking the Silence
Imagine a world where you are unable to communicate. Your thoughts, comments, jokes, requests all remain stuck behind your eyes. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) empowers individuals with complex communication needs with the means to break that silence, and to find their voice.
AAC refers to the supplementation or replacement of natural speech and/or writing using aided and/or unaided symbols. Individuals who are unable to communicate verbally use AAC systems to express themselves.
AAC is often divided into the aided and unaided components. The aided component is often associated with Assistive Technology (AT). Individuals can access their communication devices through a variety of methods. They can use direct selection, where the individual indicates choices using a body part or a prothesis that is interfaced with a body part. They can use indirect selection methods such as scanning. Items are presented sequentially and the individual indicates his selection using some consistent repetitive movement (e.g. switch, head nods).
An AAC system is an integrated group of components including the symbols, aids, strategies and techniques. It includes gestures, eye gaze, body postures, sign languages, photographs, printed words, objects, picto-ideographs as well as high tech computerised voice output devices. AAC systems can be low tech or high tech.
Low- or No-Tech AAC systems
These AAC systems use minimal technology. They include communication books and charts, E-Tran boards, photographs, real objects or alphabet charts. These systems are often inexpensive. Most low-tech or no-tech systems do not have the advantage of voice output which is available in high-tech systems.
High-Tech AAC systems
These devices are often computer based and are able to generate voice output. They are also refered to as Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCA) or Speech Generating Devices (SGD). Apps can also be downloaded into mobile devices.
Individuals who use AAC need to be trained so that they have the operational, linguistic, social and strategic competences to effectively use their AAC system. It is important to remember that communication is multi-modal and most effective communicators use more than one AAC system. Through AAC, many individuals who have complex communication needs have found their voices.