From a clinical as well as a research perspective, augmentative and alternative communication is an area of rapid developments and growing interests for researchers and clinicians around the world. This is because millions of children around the world are born with neurological, physical and/or sensory disorders every year. These problems may include autism, dementia, etc. Such individuals often suffer from communication problems and thus they are unable to express themselves to others. As a result, their physical, mental and social growth is further compromised. In order to overcome this problem and be able to communicate significantly, the development of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is essential.

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AAC may be defined as any combination of expressive modalities, apart from oral communication which can help individuals in interacting and communicating with others. So the definition is a broad one that encompasses many different techniques such as the symbol or sign language, written language, as well as the numerous symbol sets that have been developed specifically for communication purposes. These sets have been developed for use in the AAC and are available commercially. Some examples of these symbol sets include lexigrams and blissymbols. Apart from this, numerous high-tech devices have also been developed over the decades that allow digital text to speech conversion e.g. the pathfinder and also many devices that allow for visual outputs by converting speech to texts. Though there is a general perception that AAC involves technologically advanced devices, this is not the truth. AAC may enhance communication skills in absolute absence of any technical devices. The techniques which utilize physical objects or devices are known as aided AAC whereas those which do not require any physical aids are known as unaided AAC. Based on the level of technological devices being utilized, the AAC systems are also classified into high technology systems and low technology systems. AAC interventions are developed on the basis of the signs or symbols that are already in use by a individual and help hem/her build on the existing skills. In this way, AAC also allows individuals, especially children to be more expressive and enhances their social skills.

<img src=”http://www.thenextrex.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/AAC6.jpg” alt=”AAC2”>The transition from childhood to adulthood is a great leap for all individual especially those who use AAC. This is a period of adjustments and increased responsibilities. The medical, financial as well as social needs increase significantly at this phase of life. It has been observed that children with complex communication needs suffer the most during this time and often it leads to depression and anxiety. The support available to children relying on AAC often ends during this transitional period whereas this is the period when the most support is needed. The unfamiliarity of society to the use of AAC also increases the difficulties faced by these individuals. Another great challenge for these young adults is the absence of appropriate employment opportunities as well as residence or transportation services. Thus the individuals relying on AAC as means of communication face enormous difficulties when making the transition to adulthood.

<img src=”http://i2.wp.com/www.thenextrex.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/aacclinic.jpg?resize=271%2C204” alt=”AAC”>It is extremely important for healthcare practitioners and other individuals who interact frequently with special children to be aware of the different types of AACs that are in common use and should also work towards development of this form of communication. Speech pathologist working in clinical settings must possess the basic knowledge of AAC and the related resources or support systems. At the same time, clinicians must make sure that their clients do not use AAC as their sole means of communication but only use it as assistance to their personal communication skills. By enhancing their knowledge of AAC, clinicians will be able to actively introduce them to clients.

It is also the responsibility of the clinicians or healthcare professionals, social services and the governments to work together in order to create a high standard of living for youngsters relying on ACC. Many instruments have been designed for the purpose of assisting adolescents in their transition to adulthood but they are either not commonly available or there is a lack of awareness regarding their presence or use. Building of strong support systems is also an essential step for this purpose. Such systems will help individuals in relating with adults who rely on ACC and lead successful lives. It will also help them to socialize and make plans for their future.

Also read:

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