Alternative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to a set of tools, strategies, and technologies used to support individuals with communication difficulties. The digital age has brought significant advancements in AAC, transforming the field, and providing new opportunities for individuals with communication challenges. Forbes AAC is proud to be part of this innovation! For example, our latest eye gaze solution for AAC users, the ProSlate™ 13 with Enable Eyes® incorporates cutting-edge eye tracking technology while providing access to all the iPad offers.
Here are some ways in which AAC has been impacted by the digital age:
Mobile Apps and Software:
The increase of smartphones and tablets has led to the development of numerous AAC apps and software. These applications provide customizable communication boards, text-to-speech capabilities, symbol libraries, and other features that facilitate communication for individuals with speech impairments. AAC apps are portable, cost-effective, and often easily accessible, making them popular choices for communication support.
For example, the CoughDrop AAC app available through AAC Now! is the first ever cloud based AAC app allowing for access to AAC anytime, anywhere.
Voice Output Devices:
Traditional AAC devices relied on dedicated hardware with pre-programmed voice output capabilities. With the digital age, voice output devices have become more advanced and portable. Now, lightweight tablets or dedicated handheld devices serve as AAC devices, allowing for easier customization, updates, and integration with other digital tools.
Symbol Libraries and Visual Supports:
Digital technologies have expanded the availability and accessibility of symbol libraries used in AAC. Symbol libraries provide visual representations of words, concepts, and ideas, supporting individuals who struggle with text-based communication. These symbols can be easily searched, resized, and printed, allowing for greater customization and flexibility in creating communication materials.
The internet has revolutionized AAC by enabling real-time communication, remote support, and access to online resources. Individuals can use video conferencing tools, messaging apps, or social media platforms to interact with others, even when they are unable to use traditional speech. Online communities and forums also provide spaces for AAC users, families, and professionals to connect, share experiences, and seek advice.
Customization and Personalization:
Digital AAC solutions offer greater flexibility and customization options. Users can personalize their communication systems by choosing preferred voices, language settings, color schemes, and symbol layouts. This customization helps individuals express their personalities, enhance engagement, and improve communication efficiency.
Some AAC devices and software integrate environmental control features, allowing individuals to control their surroundings using their communication systems. For example, they can use AAC devices to operate lights, appliances, and other electronic devices, enhancing their independence and autonomy.
Data Collection and Analysis:
Digital AAC tools can collect data on usage patterns, vocabulary selection, and communication success rates. This data can be analyzed to assess progress, identify language goals, and tailor intervention strategies. It also provides valuable insights for researchers and developers to improve AAC technologies.
The digital age has brought tremendous advancements in AAC, making communication more accessible, portable, and personalized. These technological developments continue to evolve, empowering individuals with communication difficulties and promoting their participation in society.
Beukelman, D. R., & Light, J. C. (2020). Augmentative and alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs (5th ed). Brookes.
Katie Threlkeld, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed, ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist and the Educational Program Developer at Forbes AAC. She has over eight years of experience in AT and AAC assessment and treatment with both the pediatric and adult populations. Katie has presented at the state and national level on AAC topics, and she has University teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate level.