Not Talking Causes Many Problems

For those of us who take the ability to talk for granted, it is difficult to appreciate how difficult it is to communicate without speech. Aside from the deficit itself, people who do not speak are at a distinct disadvantage in a speaking world. Messages that can’t be delivered create all kinds of confusion and frustration for the one who can’t talk. This can be frustrating for both the non-speaker and his/her communication partner.

What’s more, when someone is unable to speak, others quickly make all kinds of judgments regarding that person’s competence, potential, and ability to think and learn.

A person who cannot speak quickly learns that while some things are easy to communicate (e.g. reaching for the TV remote to indicate you want to change to another channel), other concepts are nearly impossible to communicate (e.g. a character in that TV show reminds you of a deceased family member).

What can be done to help such a person communicate?

“Speaking Without Speech”: Introducing AAC

For many, AAC has come to the rescue. AAC is short for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Devices, systems, strategies, and tools that replace or support natural speech are known under the umbrella term of AAC. As a group, they can change the lives of those who are fortunate to use them.

The first “A” in AAC stands for Augmentative (Communication). Augmentation is essentially creating a supplement. Augmentative communication is adding something to the speech (eg. sign language, pictures, a letter board). This helps to clarify the message being communicated to the listener.

The second “A” in AAC stands for Alternative (Communication). This serves those who either are unable to speak at all or those whose speech is not understood by others. In such instances, a new way to communicate is needed: Alternative Communication.

Who AAC Can Help

AAC is potentially for anyone who either can’t speak or has difficulty doing so. Why a person can’t speak at all or ineffectively can be for a variety of reasons. These include a developmental disability that has affected the development of speech or an acquired disorder that has compromised the ability to speak.

The Different Types of AAC

There are 2 groups of AAC: Unaided and Aided. Whereas Unaided AAC does not require a physical aid or tool, Aided AAC uses tools or materials.

1. Unaided AAC

  • Facial expressions

  • Body language

  • Gestures

  • Sign language

2. Aided AAC

  • Symbol boards

  • Choice cards

  • Communication books

  • PODD books

  • Keyboards and alphabet charts

  • Speech-generating devices or communication devices

  • AAC apps on mobile devices

Text-based AAC

An AAC system may be a text-based system with a keyboard. This is generally for a person who types the words they want to say. They can often read and spell.

Symbol-based AAC

Many people need symbols or pictures when communicating. This includes those people who cannot yet read or spell. We can introduce visual symbols that represent words or maybe phrases.

AAC Can Make a Big Difference

9 Critical Ways that AAC Can Benefit

These include:

  1. richer, more frequent social interactions
  2. deeper social roles: family member, friend, professional, student
  3. increased autonomy and decision-making power over their own life
  4. more respect from others
  5. greater participation in their family lives and communities
  6. improved information sharing with physicians
  7. improved personal safety in hospitals or long-term facilities
  8. more employment and volunteer opportunities
  9. improved physical and mental health

Difficulties for Those Without AAC

Oftentimes those without AAC experience all kinds of difficulties. Many people who now use AAC report that, before having their communication system, they experienced:

  • increased social isolation and loneliness

  • greater frustration and behavioral challenges with loved ones

  • more vulnerability, especially when living alone in a care setting

  • denied input regarding important decisions over their own life

  • unable to demonstrate what they know or can learn

What is Tele-AAC?

Tele-AAC is the use of AAC through Online Speech Therapy. Tele-AAC is a “unique cross-disciplinary clinical service delivery model that requires expertise in both telepractice and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems”

This form of AAC is used for intervention, assessment, consultation, training, and other AAC-related services, enabling individuals and teams in need of AAC services to directly connect with an AAC specialist irrespective of any geographical constraints.

Tele-AAC services can be delivered as direct, face-to-face intervention services with the individual using AAC. Aside from the direct intervention, AAC specialists can provide consultation and training to parents and professionals supporting individuals using AAC by viewing intervention sessions through video-conferencing software and providing feedback either live, immediately following the session, or even a week later.

There are a variety of ways to provide direct tele-AAC services depending upon the type of device being used by the individual, that client’s particular skills, and the specific areas of need.

Services can only be effective when the clinician can view the client’s AAC system and see what he/she is inputting into the device. In addition, evidence-based AAC intervention strategies require that the clinician provide AAC modeling (or aided language stimulation).

Tele-AAC Free Webinars

If you are new to AAC, it won’t take long for you to get up to speed with these excellent free webinars.

Attention-Grabbing – Tools and Ideas for Virtual Language Learning with Rachel Madel and Lauren Enders

AAC and Teletherapy with Rachel Madel 

Tara Roehl on Using Lesson Pix for SLP Teletherapy

LessonPix Live: Games People Play with Chris Bugaj and Beth Poss

Online learning with AAC (Proloquo2Go)

Ten Ideas for Virtual AAC Modeling

Sara Gregory on Teletherapy ideas for modeling AAC

What Makes Tele-AAC Unique?

Tele-AAC is the synthesis of two wonderful technologies- AAC and teletherapy. By leveraging the power of both it has the potential to drastically improve access to services for individuals who either can’t talk or have difficulty being understood. And the beauty is that you no longer need an AAC specialist in the area. Help is only a click away!