Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) describes methods used to support communication with individuals who are non-verbal, have difficulty understanding speech, or with selective mutism. Research on the use of AAC with individuals with CdLS is limited. There are very few studies published, and they consist of individual case studies or small groups. These limited studies, in tandem with studies on the use of AAC with individuals with developmental disabilities, suggest the potential for increased vocabulary, receptive language, speech/speech attempts, and decreased frequency of communication-related behaviors with AAC use.

Types of AAC include:

  • Unaided AAC: Methods of communication that do not require voice, speech, or tools. Examples include gestures, facial expressions, sign language, and guiding or leading.
  • Low-Tech AAC: Non-electronic tools used to assist with communication. Examples include pictures, communication boards, and object exchange (i.e., grabbing the remote control when wanting to watch tv).
  • Mid-Tech AAC: Basic electronic devices that produce limited pre-recorded messages when activated by the individual. The Big Mack is a brightly colored single button. A pre-recorded message (up to two-minutes long) is played when pressed. It is frequently used for requesting an object or activity. It can also be used to share a message, such as “What I did over spring break.” with a group. The Quick Talk (and similar devices) have four to 24 pictures with recorded messages, such as “I’m hungry,” “I want to play,” or “Stop.”
  • High-Tech AAC: Electronic or digital devices that allow for rapid changes in vocabulary and production of novel, complex language. These devices can grow with the individual as their language develops. High-tech AAC devices can be dedicated or non-dedicated. Dedicated devices are only for speech generation, sometimes called “speech generating devices.” Dedicated devices are considered medical devices and are frequently covered by medical insurance. Non-dedicated devices are where AAC software can be uploaded. A quick search in the APP or Google Play store results in many programs with an extensive price range.

Among the interesting developments in AAC over the last 5-10 years is the increasing use of visual scene displays (mid-tech and high-tech). A visual scene display is a picture of a scene in which “hot spots” are programmed to activate speech when selected. Examples of scenes could include photos of the food pantry, a favorite activity like the playground, or pictures associated with routines such as the family room or the classroom. The use of a visual scene depicting the whole concept versus an individual picture/symbol (or series of individual symbols) may be an alternative AAC option for individuals with CdLS who demonstrate increased receptive language skills within familiar routines/environments or gestalt learning and communication (understanding of the whole versus the individual parts) but have not experienced success with AAC to date. Before implementing any AAC device, a comprehensive, functional AAC assessment with an experienced speech pathologist is recommended.

Parents/caregivers of children with CdLS are invited to participate in an online survey as part of a research study about children with CdLS and communication. The purpose of this research study is to gather information on the use of electronic communication devices in children with CdLS. 

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Patti Caudill, M.S., CCC-SLP
Patti Caudill, M.S., CCC-SLP

Speech Language Pathology at Greater Baltimore Medical Center

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Last modified by Gerritjan Koekkoek on 2023/10/24 17:12
Created by Gerritjan Koekkoek on 2023/10/24 13:04



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