AAC devices are becoming increasingly popular as a communication tool for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). These devices provide a way for children who struggle with verbal communication to express themselves and interact with the world around them. All individuals are verbal or non-verbal in their communications. However, for individuals who are non-vocal, AAC devices help them communicate their wants and needs. AAC devices come in various forms, from low-tech picture exchange systems to high-tech speech-generating devices, and can be customized to meet the specific needs of each child.
Understanding AAC devices is crucial for parents and caregivers of children with ASD. These devices can significantly improve a child’s quality of life by giving them a voice and allowing them to communicate their wants, needs, and thoughts. However, choosing the right AAC device can be a daunting task, as there are many factors to consider, such as the child’s communication abilities, preferences, and motor skills. Additionally, the financial aspect of acquiring an AAC device can be a barrier for some families.
- AAC devices are a valuable tool for children with ASD who struggle with verbal communication.
- There are various types of AAC devices, from low-tech to high-tech, that can be customized to meet the specific needs of each child.
- Choosing the right AAC device for a child with ASD can be challenging, but it can significantly improve their quality of life.
What are AAC Devices?
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices are assistive technology tools that help individuals with communication difficulties to express themselves. AAC devices come in different forms, including high-tech and low-tech devices, and they can be unaided or aided.
Unaided AAC involves the use of gestures, sign language, facial expressions, and body language to communicate. Aided AAC, on the other hand, involves the use of tools and equipment to support communication. Aided AAC devices can be further classified into low-tech and high-tech devices.
Low-tech AAC devices are simple and do not require electricity or batteries to function. They include communication boards, picture exchange communication systems (PECS), and communication books. Low-tech AAC devices are affordable, easy to use, and can be customized to meet the individual’s communication needs.
High-tech AAC devices, on the other hand, are electronic and require electricity or batteries to function. They include speech-generating devices (SGDs) and tablets with communication apps. High-tech AAC devices are more expensive than low-tech devices, but they offer more advanced features, such as voice output, word prediction, and customization options.
AAC devices can be used by individuals of all ages with communication difficulties, including those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). AAC devices can help individuals with ASD to communicate their needs, wants, and ideas effectively, which can improve their social interactions and quality of life.
In summary, AAC devices are assistive technology tools that support communication. They come in different forms, including high-tech and low-tech devices, and they can be unaided or aided. AAC devices can help individuals with communication difficulties, including those with ASD, to express themselves effectively.
Significance of AAC Devices for Autistic Children
AAC devices are an essential tool for children with autism who struggle with communication skills. These devices are designed to help them express themselves, interact with others, and improve their overall quality of life. For autistic children who have difficulty with gestures and language development, AAC devices can be particularly helpful.
Studies have shown that AAC devices can improve communication skills, behavior, and speech development in children with autism. Research has also shown that AAC devices can help children with apraxia and non-speaking autistic children to develop functional communication skills.
AAC devices can be used in therapy sessions to help children with autism develop their communication skills. Therapists can use these devices to help children learn how to communicate effectively and to develop their motor skills. The devices can also be used to teach children how to use functional communication in everyday situations.
The Communication Bill of Rights is an important document that outlines the rights of individuals with communication disorders, including autistic children. This document emphasizes the importance of using AAC devices to help children with autism communicate effectively and express themselves.
AAC devices can be particularly helpful for children with neurodiversity, as they provide an alternative means of communication that is not reliant on speech. This can be especially important for non-speaking autistic children who may struggle with traditional speech therapy.
In conclusion, AAC devices are an essential tool for autistic children who struggle with communication skills. They can help improve communication, behavior, and speech development, and can be particularly helpful for non-speaking children with autism. With the help of AAC devices, children with autism can develop functional communication skills and improve their overall quality of life.
Types of AAC Devices
AAC devices come in various forms, from low-tech options such as picture boards to high-tech devices such as tablets and speech-generating devices. These devices can be customized to meet the specific communication needs of an individual with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Low-Tech AAC Devices
Low-tech AAC devices are non-electronic tools that can be used to support communication. These devices include picture boards, communication books, and communication wallets. Picture boards are a simple and effective way to communicate using pictures or symbols. Communication books and wallets are portable and can be used to store pictures or symbols for easy access.
High-Tech AAC Devices
High-tech AAC devices are electronic tools that can be used to support communication. These devices include tablets, computers, and speech-generating devices. Tablets and touch-screen devices have become increasingly popular as AAC devices due to their portability and versatility. iPads and Android tablets are commonly used as AAC devices. Speech-generating devices are specialized devices that are designed to generate speech based on the user’s input. These devices can be customized to meet the specific communication needs of an individual with ASD.
Choosing the Right AAC Device
Choosing the right AAC device for an individual with ASD can be a challenging task. It is important to consider the individual’s communication needs, abilities, and preferences when selecting an AAC device. A speech-language pathologist can help evaluate an individual’s communication needs and recommend the appropriate AAC device. Additionally, some AAC devices can be covered by insurance, so it is important to research insurance coverage and funding options when selecting an AAC device.
In summary, AAC devices come in various forms, from low-tech options such as picture boards to high-tech devices such as tablets and speech-generating devices. Choosing the right AAC device for an individual with ASD requires consideration of their communication needs, abilities, and preferences. A speech-language pathologist can help evaluate an individual’s communication needs and recommend the appropriate AAC device.
Features of AAC Devices
AAC devices provide a means of communication to individuals who are unable to speak or have difficulty speaking. These devices come with a variety of features that cater to the specific needs of the user. Here are some of the key features of AAC devices:
One of the most important features of AAC devices is voice output. These devices allow the user to communicate their thoughts and ideas through synthesized speech. The voice output can be customized to match the user’s gender, age, and accent, making the communication more natural and personalized.
AAC devices come with a range of language options, including English, Spanish, French, and more. This feature allows users to communicate in their preferred language, making it easier for them to express themselves.
AAC devices also support symbol-based communication, which uses pictures and symbols to represent words and phrases. This feature is particularly useful for individuals with limited literacy skills or those who find it difficult to read.
Some AAC devices support multimodal communication, which allows users to communicate using a combination of methods, such as symbols, text, and voice output. This feature gives users more flexibility in how they communicate and can be particularly useful for those who have difficulty with one particular method.
Writing and Typing
For individuals who are able to write or type, some AAC devices offer this feature. These devices allow users to type out messages or write on a touch screen, which is then translated into speech output. This feature is particularly useful for individuals who prefer to communicate in writing or who have difficulty with other methods of communication.
Speech-generating devices are a type of AAC device that are specifically designed to generate speech output. These devices come with a range of features, including voice output, language options, and symbol-based communication. They are particularly useful for individuals who are unable to speak or have difficulty speaking.
In summary, AAC devices come with a range of features that cater to the specific needs of the user. These features include voice output, language options, symbol-based communication, multimodal communication, writing and typing, and speech-generating devices. By using these features, individuals with communication difficulties can express themselves more effectively and improve their overall quality of life.
Choosing the Right AAC Device for Your Child
Choosing the right AAC device for your child can be a daunting task, but it is an essential one. It is crucial to select an AAC device that meets your child’s communication needs and abilities. Here are some factors to consider when choosing an AAC device for your child:
Evaluations and Assessments
Before selecting an AAC device, it is essential to have your child evaluated by a speech-language pathologist (SLP) or an AAC specialist. An evaluation will determine your child’s communication needs and abilities, ensuring that the chosen AAC device is the right fit.
Age and Minimum Age Requirement
Some AAC devices have a minimum age requirement. It is essential to check the device’s age requirement before making a purchase. Additionally, age plays a crucial role in the selection of an AAC device. For younger children, an AAC device with single-meaning pictures or semantic compaction may be more appropriate, while older children may benefit from spelling and pointing to letters.
Therapist and Doctor Recommendations
Consulting with your child’s therapist or doctor can provide valuable insight into the selection of an AAC device. They may recommend specific devices that they have seen success with or provide information on resources and insurance coverage.
Resources and Information
There are several resources available online and in-person that provide information on AAC devices. These resources can help you make an informed decision about which device is right for your child.
AAC devices can be expensive, and insurance coverage may be available. Check with your insurance provider to see if they cover AAC devices and what the requirements are for coverage.
There are several AAC apps available for mobile devices that can be a more affordable option than traditional AAC devices. However, it is essential to ensure that the chosen app meets your child’s communication needs and abilities.
Choice Boards and Communication Books
Choice boards and communication books are low-tech AAC options that can be used in conjunction with a high-tech device or on their own. These options can be a good starting point for children who are new to AAC.
Schedule and IEP
Consider your child’s schedule and individualized education program (IEP) when selecting an AAC device. Ensure that the device can be incorporated into their daily routine and supports their educational goals.
If your child attends school, it is essential to consider the school district’s policies on AAC devices. Some districts may have specific requirements or restrictions on the devices that can be used in the classroom.
Proloquo2go and LAMP
Proloquo2go and LAMP are two popular AAC devices. Proloquo2go is an app that uses symbols and pictures to create sentences, while LAMP is a language program that uses consistent motor patterns to develop language skills. It is essential to evaluate both options to determine which one is the best fit for your child.
American Sign Language
American Sign Language (ASL) is a low-tech AAC option that can be used in conjunction with a high-tech device or on its own. It is essential to consider your child’s ability to learn and use ASL when selecting an AAC device.
Choosing the right AAC device for your child requires careful consideration of their communication needs and abilities. Consulting with professionals, researching resources, and evaluating different options can help you make an informed decision.
Using AAC Devices Effectively
AAC devices can be a powerful tool for individuals with autism spectrum disorders to improve communication skills. However, it is important to use these devices effectively to get the most benefit. Here are some tips on how to use AAC devices effectively:
Motivation is Key
AAC devices can be a great way to motivate individuals with autism to communicate. It is important to find out what motivates the individual and use that as a way to encourage communication. For example, if a child is motivated by a certain toy or activity, the AAC device can be used to request that item. This can increase the child’s motivation to communicate and make the process more enjoyable.
When introducing AAC devices to autistic children, we recommend picking a routine that they are most motivated by and incorporate the AAC device into their communication. This way they are motivated to ask for things in a routine that they enjoy. This creates lots of opportunities to communicate!
Incorporate Sign Language and Body Language
AAC devices can be used in conjunction with sign language and body language to improve communication. Sign language can be used to supplement the AAC device and make communication more effective. Body language and facial expressions can also be used to convey emotions and make communication more natural.
Use the Right App
There are a variety of AAC apps available, and it is important to choose the right one for the individual’s needs. Some apps are designed for specific age groups or communication levels, while others are more general. It is important to do research and find an app that is appropriate for the individual’s needs.
Work with an SLP
Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) can be a valuable resource when using AAC devices. They can help choose the right device, teach the individual how to use it effectively, and provide ongoing support. SLPs can also help with troubleshooting and make adjustments to the device as needed. They can also provide parent-training to teach parents how to use AAC devices effectively and efficiently.
Consider Mounting and Movement
AAC devices can be mounted to a wheelchair or other mobility device to make communication easier. It is important to consider the individual’s mobility needs when choosing a mounting option. Movement can also be incorporated into AAC devices to make communication more engaging. For example, some devices use movement to select different options on the screen.
Use Grid Guard
Grid Guard is a feature that can be used to prevent accidental selections on an AAC device. This can be especially helpful for individuals who have difficulty with fine motor skills. Grid Guard can be turned on and off as needed, and it can be adjusted to fit the individual’s needs.
Focus on Functional Communication
It is important to focus on functional communication when using AAC devices. This means using the device to communicate about real-life situations and needs, such as requesting food or asking for help. By focusing on functional communication, the individual can learn to use the device in a meaningful way and improve their overall communication skills.
Financial Aspects of AAC Devices
AAC devices can be quite expensive, and it’s important to consider the financial aspects when looking to obtain one for your child. The cost of an AAC device can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, depending on the type of device and its features.
Many insurance companies cover the cost of AAC devices, but coverage varies depending on the insurance plan. Some plans may cover the entire cost of the device, while others may only cover a portion of the cost. It’s important to check with your insurance provider to see what is covered under your plan.
Medicaid may also cover the cost of an AAC device for children with disabilities. However, the process of obtaining coverage through Medicaid can be lengthy and complicated. It’s important to work with a knowledgeable healthcare provider or case manager who can help navigate the process.
It’s also worth noting that some AAC device manufacturers may offer sales or discounts at certain times of the year. It’s a good idea to research different manufacturers and their sales schedules to see if you can save money on the device.
Another option to consider is purchasing a used AAC device. This can be a cost-effective way to obtain a device, but it’s important to ensure that the device is in good working condition and that it meets the specific needs of your child.
Overall, obtaining an AAC device for your child can be a significant investment, but there are options available to help make it more affordable. By researching insurance coverage, Medicaid, sales, and used devices, you can find a device that meets your child’s needs and fits within your budget.
AAC Devices and Education
AAC devices have become an essential tool for children with autism who struggle with communication. These devices can be used in educational settings to help children with autism develop their language skills, improve their writing, and enhance their functional communication abilities.
Research has shown that AAC devices can be an effective way to improve language development in children with autism. These devices can help children learn new words and phrases, as well as improve their ability to understand and use language. Additionally, AAC devices can help children with autism who struggle with writing by providing an alternative way to communicate their thoughts and ideas.
Many school districts now recognize the importance of AAC devices and have implemented them in their classrooms. Schools may have a variety of AAC devices available, including dedicated devices, tablets, and apps. Some schools may also provide training for teachers and staff on how to use these devices effectively.
AAC devices can also be used to teach functional communication skills, such as requesting and social communication, to children with autism. By using visual supports and symbols, AAC devices can help children with autism communicate their needs and wants more effectively, which can lead to increased independence and self-esteem.
Overall, AAC devices have become an important tool in education for children with autism. They can be used to improve language development, writing, and functional communication skills. As schools continue to recognize the benefits of these devices, more resources and training may become available to help children with autism thrive in the classroom.
Frequently Asked Questions
What types of AAC devices are available for children with autism?
There are various types of AAC devices available for children with autism, including dedicated communication devices, tablets, and smartphones. Dedicated communication devices are designed specifically for communication and are often more durable and have a longer battery life than other options. Tablets and smartphones can also be used as AAC devices with the help of communication apps.
Are there any free options for obtaining an AAC device for my child with autism?
There are some organizations that provide free or low-cost AAC devices for families who cannot afford them. These organizations may have specific eligibility requirements and may have limited resources, so it is important to research and apply early. Some examples of organizations that provide free or low-cost AAC devices include the Medicaid program, Easterseals, and the Angelman Syndrome Foundation.
How can I determine which AAC device is best suited for my child’s needs?
The best AAC device for your child will depend on their specific communication needs and abilities. It is important to work with a speech-language pathologist or other communication specialist to assess your child’s communication abilities and determine which device would be most appropriate. Some factors to consider when choosing an AAC device include the child’s motor skills, cognitive abilities, and communication goals.
What are some popular communication apps for children with autism?
There are many communication apps available for tablets and smartphones that are designed specifically for children with autism. Some popular options include Proloquo2Go, TouchChat, and Avaz. These apps may use symbols, pictures, or text to help children communicate, and some may also have features such as voice output and predictive text.
Can an iPad be used as an AAC device for my child with autism?
Yes, an iPad can be used as an AAC device with the help of communication apps. However, it is important to keep in mind that not all apps are created equal, and some may not be appropriate for all children. It is important to work with a communication specialist to determine which app would be best suited for your child’s needs.
What is the average cost of an AAC device for a child with autism?
The cost of an AAC device can vary widely depending on the type of device and the features it includes. Dedicated communication devices can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars, while tablets and smartphones can be more affordable. Some insurance plans may cover the cost of an AAC device, and there are also organizations that provide free or low-cost devices for families in need.
Janice is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and Special Education. She also holds a Master of Science in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) from Queen’s University, Belfast. She has worked with and case managed children and youth with autism and other intellectual and/or developmental disabilities in home and residential setting since 2013.