Choosing an AAC device

ASHA defines Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) as all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. The goal of using AAC is to provide the individual with the most effective and interactive communication as possible. When a child or adult’s needs cannot be met using natural communication methods it is likely that they would benefit from the use of a low-tech or hi-tech AAC device.

Low Tech/No-Tech AAC devices

Low Tech/No-Tech AAC devices are usually small and portable and contain information that supports the communication efforts of individuals with complex communication needs. Examples of such devices include PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), Communication Boards. Communication Books, Communication Notebooks, Communication Wallets and Communication Cards/Labels. This type of AAC may be used to facilitate early implementation of AAC services and are generally low cost and portable. These devices are able to be personalized and contain photographs, pictures, symbols and printed words. Although there are several benefits to using low-tech/no-tech devices theses devices may be insufficient in providing users with access to communication because these devices have limited vocabulary, typically don’t contain language beyond the here and now and place a heavy burden on communication partners because these devices don’t generate speech or have a voice/print output.

High Tech Systems

High-tech systems have many options available in terms of vocabulary, messaging & rate enhancement options. These devices provide auditory and visual feedback to the user and allows them to communicate at a distance. High-tech devices allow the AAC user to send messages without first obtaining the partners’ attention through another mode and also come with features such as e-mail, Internet, phone, environmental controls. Examples of a high-technology devices include Proloquo2go on the IPAD, Dynavox Maestro and the Toby Lightwriter.

When going in for an AAC evaluation the individual and the Speech Language pathologist undergo the feature matching process. During that process the individual and the SLP determine whether the features of a specific device matches the communication needs resulting from the individual’s disability. A feature matching assessment starts with identifying the needs of the individual and matching the needs with the features of a communication device or system. Things that considered during the evaluation are access methods, meaning how the individual would be able to access the information on their devices whether it’s via direct selection (touch, pointing) or scanning, age, disability, and communication needs.


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