What is AAC?
What is AAC?
If you’ve found us, you’re likely responsible for someone who struggles with communication, such as a child with autism who can’t speak, a spouse with MND who can’t use their hands or voice, or a parent who suffered a stroke. You may have even heard about augmentative and alternative communication, also known as AAC.
The Communication Bill of Rights states that everyone has the right to learn to communicate, to be spoken with and not about, to know and ask about what’s happening to them and to make their preferences known. Everyone has the right to a communication system all the time and deserves to have a voice. For people with conditions that impact communication, AAC is the means of achieving this basic human right.
Augmentative communication comes in many forms and offers the ability to express oneself in whichever way works best. It’s usually a combination of the following solutions:
Gestures, body language, facial expressions, pointing, signing and vocalisations.
Printed communication books or pages of symbols/text that can be pointed to.
Touch screen tablets that convert symbols/text to speech or devices controlled by the eyes.
Our perspective on AAC can be summarised with a few concepts...
You may have heard that the person in your care is too young, too old or too impaired to communicate. We believe that no one is ‘too anything’ to be able to communicate. What they’re currently capable of is the floor, not the ceiling, of their ability. There’s no way of knowing how far they can go until you try.
Learning anything takes time. Sometimes we learn quickly and sometimes in small steps. It’s the same with AAC. Whether the person in your care learns quickly or takes time, every step is a win and builds on the last. Fear of doing it incorrectly shouldn’t keep you from starting or persisting, and we're here to accompany you along your journey to success.
The first step starts with educating your communication team, the centre of which is the person who uses AAC. The team also includes key people in their life, such as parents or a spouse, siblings, relatives, educators, caregivers and specialists, who all play a crucial role in modelling the best way to use your AAC tools. Empowering the team empowers your communicator.
Everyone has the potential to communicate, regardless of their challenges. We call it the ‘Power to be You’. Don't be afraid to raise your expectations. AAC is about having a voice, which means more than the ability to select from presented choices. It can empower a person who can’t speak to ask for and get attention, ask for what they want, share their feelings, and to be given real choices, which they can accept or reject.
A list of the most common AAC myths and the science and expertise debunking them:
This myth is based on the belief that introducing AAC at an early age will impede the development of natural speech. The truth is that AAC improves natural speech and grows language skills.
This myth is based on the belief that you must learn to communicate and read when you’re young. The truth is that it’s possible to learn communication and literacy skills at any point in life.
This myth is based on the assumption that a person’s cognitive and/or physical abilities are too severely impaired. The truth is that breathing is the only prerequisite for AAC – it can be used by anyone, regardless of diagnosis or impairment level.
This myth is based on the belief that having some speech is enough for basic communication. The truth is that limited speech makes it difficult for someone to express what they truly want or feel, and therefore limits their ability to participate in daily life.
This myth is based on the belief that equipment for accessing an AAC device is not medically necessary. The truth is that technology is improving all the time and people who need AAC and have difficulty using their hands have many solutions available to them, so there’s no reason to deny them access.
This myth is based on a belief that an AAC solution will enable instant communication. The truth is that implementing AAC is rarely a matter of simply putting a device down in front of someone and listening to all they have to say. AAC is a journey that takes time and persistence.
This myth is based on the assumption that a person needs to walk before they can run, so to speak. The truth is that the provision of AAC tools and techniques does not follow any order. It’s a series of decisions made and revisited regularly based on the individual’s current and future skills and needs.