What is Augmentative Communication?(AC or ACC)
Augmentative, sometimes referred to as alternative communication (AAC) is a method of communication used by individuals with severe speech and language disabilities, those who have Cerebral Palsy, Autism, ALS, suffered from a stroke, etc. AAC is for those individuals who are unable to use verbal speech yet are cognitively able or when speech is extremely difficult to understand. These individuals will use gestures, communications boards, pictures, symbols, drawings or a combination of all of these. An individual would point to a single meaning picture - for instance if the individual was hungry, the picture may look like somebody eating. If the individual is also physically impaired, a head pointer may be worn to indicate the picture which would relay the feeling. The methods of AAC will vary and be personalized to meet the needs of the individual. Many forms of AAC with have an assistive technology component which will come in both high tech or low tech strategies. You don't need special skills for understanding an individual who is using ACC as the processes are self-explanatory.
What is the Process? According to Kangas and Lloyd (1998) there are three areas for consideration in the AAC process:
1. A Method to Represent Symbols (objects, words, drawings, symbols, photographs, line drawings etc.
2. A Method to Select Symbols (point directly or use a scanning device such as a head pointer
3. A Method to Transmit the Message (visual or auditory output)
Prior to Considering AAC
1. What are the individual's cognitive abilities?
2. What are the individual's physicall abilities?
3. What is the most important vocabulary relevant to the individual?
4. Consider the individual's motivation to use ACC and select the ACC system that will match.
5. Always enlist the expert help of: Speech language pathologists Occupational therapists, and Computer specialists to help with the decision.
There are many AAC Associations and Organizations. You'll want to contact the speech/language pathologists for organizations specific to your area.