During the past few months, I have written quite a number of blog posts for BRIDGES. Every week I come up with a different topic and every week the articles have helped me in some way or another. It’s like it is building a resource for me and many others to use whenever a topic affects their life any day.
This month is October — it is Augmentative and Alternative Communications (AAC) Month as well. As a part time AAC user, I am highly recommending that anyone who needs to use AAC should use it. AAC can be used on a temporary basis or permanently. It can be used part of the time or all the time.
AAC includes communication systems, strategies, and tools that replace or supplement natural speech. When teaching a person to use AAC, the facilitator needs to remember that it takes time to learn it. It is not a race. Everyone learns at their own pace. It can take years for some people to learn to use an AAC device.
What is AAC?
AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. There are a variety of different AAC devices everyone can use. AAC can help people to work in competitive employment. It also can help with peoples’ daily activities in their personal lives. For example, if a person is going through a rough day, they may go into a room at home to scream out loud because articulating their feelings with their voice is not possible at that moment. With an AAC device, someone can interact with that person via the AAC device of the individual’s choice until their ability to articulate their feelings returns. However, for some people, using an AAC device is essential all the time. We just have to be patient whether a person needs to use it at a particular moment or all the time.
Some examples of AAC are:
- Speech generating devices
- Sign languages
- Picture boards
- Letter boards
- Eye gazing
- Head tracking
- Alternative Mouse Control
- Single and multiple switch control
AAC is Universal Design! Everyone can benefit from AAC whether they are using it part time or full time.
AAC is Universal Design because most of us have used these types of devices at some point in our lives or every day. Not all of us are articulate in our voices. Some examples are: when a person is intoxicated from alcohol; or has had a stroke or heart attack; or has been in a traumatic experience like a car accident; or has been pulled over by the police. AAC is a very useful resource for all of us!
The first time I learned about AAC, I saw people like Stephen Hawking, David James Saverese, Amy Sequenzia, Sue Rubin, Henry Frost, and so many others who are nonspeaking using it regularly. I learned about the research done by Douglas Biklin a few years ago with his extensive studies with AAC at Syracuse University. I was impressed with the uniqueness of how this alternative to communication is Universal Design. When interacting with a Blind person, they may hand us a manual in braille. However, the manual in braille is completely inaccessible to us. So, we need a translator to help us. This is how we look at AAC as Universal Design. It is a human translator of our communications when we literally cannot communicate like typical individuals can. It can be full time like nonspeaking people or part time. Using AAC is a method of communicating just as speaking our words is communicating. It is just done in a different way.