Augmentative and Alternative Communication

What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to a range strategies that support or replace spoken communication.  
  • No-tech AAC refers to methods which don't require any equipment. Examples of this are the use of gesture and body language, such as pointing, eye gaze, facial expressions and vocalisations. Makaton signing is also a form of no-tech AAC.
  • Low tech AAC methods use basic equipment that does not need power to function. Examples include: a pen and paper to write or draw; alphabet and word boards; communication boards or books with pictures; photos and symbols; objects of reference (particular objects which represent what someone needs to understand or say.)
  • High tech AAC refers to equipment which needs batteries of mains power. Most gadgets or software will speak and/or produce text. Some high tech communication aids may be added to familiar devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops. These often have simple buttons or pages that speak when touched. Other communication aids may be activated with the use of eye gaze.
Who is AAC for?
Most of us use AAC in our every day communication. For example, we might use a thumbs up gesture instead of speaking, point to something, or wave goodbye.

People who have difficulties with speech may rely more heavily on AAC strategies to communicate. AAC may be used for those with no speech, or to support individuals with unclear speech, and/or those reluctant to communicate verbally or using other means.
Communication Boards
A communication board is a page of symbols or photographs that is used to facilitate communication for people with limited expressive language ability.

Individuals use the board to communicate by pointing and gesturing or looking at the various symbols and picture. 

Communication boards are commonly used to encourage choice making, but they can also be used to enable individuals to share information (such as how you are feeling today) or to comment on something.

There are a range of communication boards available to download from the Ace Centre wesbite.
Communciation Books
Communication books usually contain several pages of symbols or photographs in a book. These are organised so that different topics appear on different pages. The user points to the symbols to make up a sentence. They may, or may not be able to speak the message as they do this.

More information about communication books can be found on the Communication Matters website.
Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) was developed for people with Autism and other developmental disabilities.

PECS is usually recommended for people who have difficulty with other communication methods such as speech, signing or pointing to pictures. They also appear to be unmotivated by the social rewards of communication.

PECS users are taught to approach another person to give them a picture to request something that they want. By doing this, the user learns to initiate communication.
Voice Output Communication Aids
Some of our students use high tech communication aids. These are usually a computer system or tablet with a communication app installed. Some people will use 'text to talk' deveices where they type what they want to say and the computer reads it out. Other individuals will have words, phrases or sentences programmed into their device. These are usually presented with symbols or photographs.

At the East SILC we refer to a high tech communication aid as a 'talker' because this is more meaningful for our students. It may also be referred to as a Voice Output Communication Aid (VOCA).

Talkers can be accessed in different ways depending on individual needs. For example they can be operatedusing touch screen buttons, a switch operated by hand or other body part such as the head, a sensor or eye gaze.

In order for a student to be assessed for a high tech communication aid, they must be referred to the specialist NHS communication aid service.

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