Speech Therapists can help individuals with a wide variety of disorders and difficulties to help their make their daily activities easier. In a previous blog post, we outlined all the services we offer at our clinics and through teletherapy. One of the areas we specialize in is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). After reading this post, you should have a good idea of what AAC is and how it can make amazing improvements in so many peoples' lives!
What is AAC?
The first part of AAC, "augmentative communication", can be used with someone's existing speech skills, or can help someone who is non-verbal to communicate their needs or wants. For example, an individual could use gestures or signed languages, point to pictures, or use a communication book with images and phrases.
Girls learning sign language - David Fulmer
Sample page of communication book
Some individuals may be looking for a resource that can read messages out loud. This is what we refer to as "alternative communication". These could be text-to-speech devices, electronic communication books that read out messages, writing tablets, and many more.
AAC Tablet - speaktome.co.nz
Who uses AAC?
Some people will need to incorporate AAC into their daily lives permanently, while others may only use it as a temporary solution. Anyone who is not able to fully communicate through speech to get their message across can benefit from AAC, including children, teenagers, adults and seniors.
These individuals could have speech and language delays, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Aphasia, Cerebral Palsy, speech difficulties from cancer, a stroke or a traumatic brain injury, be nonverbal, or have a wide range of other disorders or complications. There is no typical AAC user since these devices and strategies can be applied to many different situations.
What are the benefits of AAC?
An individual using any method of AAC can benefit from increased independence in carrying out their daily activities because of less reliance on others. AAC can also improve a person's relationships with their friends and family by being able to participate in conversations and communicate their thoughts and opinions. Overall, AAC can significantly improve an individual's quality of life.
Will using AAC delay a person's speech?
This is a common question among families of potential AAC users, and it's an understandable concern. Researchers wanted to know the same thing, and they found that there is no evidence that AAC is a barrier to speech production. They actually found some improvements in speech abilities in different participants, but they were pretty minor on average. Essentially, this means that even if AAC might not dramatically improve someone's speech abilities, we know that it isn't causing anyone to lose their existing speech skills or experience a delay.
Can I get funding for AAC in Ontario?
In Ontario, you can apply to have the government cover 75% to 100% of the cost of an AAC device up to a certain maximum amount through the Assisted Devices Program. To qualify, you must be an Ontario resident, have an Ontario health card, be unable to speak or have speech that is difficult to understand, as well as a physical inability to write with a paper and pen.
You can learn more about how to apply for funding in Ontario by clicking here. If you're applying for the first time, the first step of the process is to get an assessment from a Speech Language Pathologist or an Occupational Therapist, so please feel free to contact us so we can get you started.
What can I expect from an assessment?
We start by assessing the individual’s ability to make a choice, how much language they understand and what instructions they can follow, and then how they verbally express themselves. Based on this, we recommend an AAC tool that is right for them.
The AAC can be low tech, starting off with pointing to pictures to make a choice, or move to high tech like using a tablet or iPad with a software program that lets the person press individual word buttons. This allows the device to read whole sentences out loud for them.
If someone already has an AAC in place, we will assess their current usage to see if it’s a right fit, and work on expanding the individual and their family’s use of the device to help that person communicate more freely and consistently.
Have any questions we haven't answered here? Leave a comment or contact us to know more!
Government of Ontario. (2016, December 7). Assisted Devices Program. ontario.ca. https://www.ontario.ca/page/assistive-devices-program#section-1.
Susan Balandin (Commentary author)(2009)AAC intervention does not hinder natural speech production for children with autism, but natural speech gains tend to be small,Evidence-Based Communication Assessment and Intervention, 3:1,11-14, DOI: 10.1080/17489530902781772
Andalusia Speech Therapy has multiple clinics in Ontario and offers virtual therapy to anywhere in the world. Contact us more for information.