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Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) Systems

Arguably, the most well-known alternative communication system would be that of the late Stephen Hawking. He was unable to speak but he was able to control a computer system using his eyes. The computer was essentially his voice. This is an example of a high tech AAC system but low-tech options are just as beneficial and empowering. In fact, many people who start using alternative, augmentative communication (AAC) systems start with a simple communication board. It is important that every person be given a means to communicate which is unique to them and their situation.

Clients who are unable to communicate verbally, have limited verbal language or who struggle to express themselves in any form (writing, typing, facial expression, gestures or sign language) could possibly benefit from an alternative, augmentative communication (AAC) system. Alternative, augmentative communication (AAC) can be used permanently or temporarily, depending on the person and their unique communication needs. A completely alternative communication system is only used for those people who have no other means to communicate and the AAC system becomes their ‘voice’. For most people however, their communication is augmented or enhanced using an AAC system e.g. The person already uses eye contact or gesture or basic YES and NO to communicate but an AAC system would add to that by providing a means to communicate more information and access more people in their environment.

The team will assess the person’s communication requirements, their physical, cognitive and sensory abilities while being mindful of resources and barriers unique to them. They then work with the person affected and their family or carers to develop a unique system with unique vocabulary and the patient and family or carers are then trained on how to use the system.

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