My previous blog post discussed the basics of Augmentative
& Alternative Communication (AAC); if you missed it, please check it out here! Now,
I will discuss populations of children who can benefit from using AAC. Much of this information is also applicable
to adults using AAC, but I will continue to focus primarily upon children (0-18
years of age).
For some of my clients, AAC will be the primary mode of
communication used throughout their lives.
Certain medical diagnoses (for example, severe Cerebral Palsy) are
associated with profound difficulty producing intelligible speech and another
mode of communication will be more effective and efficient. For other clients, AAC use is relatively
short-lived and is eventually replaced by verbal communication. For example, many of my clients between 1 and
3 years of age will use sign language, picture symbols or AAC iPad apps to
communicate basic wants and needs like “eat”, “more” and “mom”. As they gain the ability to express
themselves verbally, they replace these modes of communication with spoken
words. For others, like Timmy in my
previous post, AAC continues to be used for many years but is combined with
other modes of communication. An immense
variety of AAC options exists, and I will be discussing many of these options
in future posts. But first, we need to
ask and answer the question: Who are
these children who are using AAC?
my practice, children using AAC fall into two main categories; the first
includes children who are nonverbal. For
a variety of reasons, they are not able to use speech to communicate. Some have disorders that affect the tone,
strength or coordination of the muscles used to produce speech. Others are physically capable of speaking,
but have neurological diagnoses that result in a lack of verbal
communication. As you may imagine, there
are many combinations of factors that can lead to a child being considered “nonverbal”. Here are some examples of nonverbal children
being helped by AAC (all identifying information, including pictures, has been
Bobby was born
with a severe seizure disorder, and has also been diagnosed with cognitive
impairment. Bobby does not speak, but loves
to “be the boss” and tell his brothers what to do! He uses TalkBoard, an app on his iPad, to
direct his brothers, “Do it again!” after they’ve done something silly. He also loves to play Simon Says and tell his
brothers to act like different kinds of animals.
|Bridget was born healthy and has no major
medical issues. However, she is a late
talker and only uses a few verbal words (e.g., “Mama”, “hi”) at age two. Bridget’s parents have created a low-tech
communication board for her, and she will point to a picture of something she
wants (e.g., a ball) on the board.
Bridget will go and get the board herself if she needs to communicate
something, and Bridget’s mom recently that that Bridget is now trying to say the names of
several pictures on the board!|
Carrie has Cerebral
Palsy, and has an enormous vocabulary; however, when she speaks she has a hard
time coordinating her speech muscles and does not have adequate respiratory
support to speak more than one word at a time.
People often have a very hard time understanding what Carrie is saying. She will talk to her parents most of the time,
but with unfamiliar people will use her communication device – a VMax by
DynaVox Technologies – to have conversations.
Carrie loves to ask people about their pets, and has pre-programmed
buttons on her device that will tell a listener all about her dog Sadie.
As you can see, AAC can a be short- or long-term need, and
can be used successfully with a wide range of communicators. I would like to dispel the notion that only
nonverbal children use AAC; it can be incredibly helpful with children who are
able to speak but are not able to express all of their wants, needs, and ideas
this way. I would also like to point out
that typically developing children can also use AAC! Yes, that’s right – using AAC and visual
strategies with typically developing children can be an interesting, motivating
and exciting way to introduce new words, teach communicative cause-and-effect,
and work on social skills. Use of baby
sign language is one example of this, and I will discuss baby sign in detail in
future posts. For now, I hope that you
have a deeper and more personal understanding of the types of children who can
benefit from AAC; please keep coming
back to learn more!
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