Did you know? May is Better Hearing and Speech Month!
Better Hearing and Speech Month is recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) as an opportunity to increase awareness of communication disorders (ASHA, n.d.). Although the title of the month explicitly only recognizes speech, Better Hearing and Speech Month aims to increase awareness of all communication modes and needs.
The theme of Better Hearing and Speech Month 2023 is Building a Strong Foundation.
More than 2 million people who have significant language impairments use AAC to supplement and/or replace spoken speech temporarily or permanently (ASHA, n.d.). The populations that most often use and benefit from AAC include those with cerebral palsy, autism, genetic syndromes, dual sensory impairments, intellectual disabilities, hearing impairments, multiple disabilities, and the lasting effects of strokes, diseases, and head injuries (ASHA, n.d.). However, anyone can use AAC and benefit from it!
Humans, especially those with complex communication needs, are multimodal communicators. They use and combine unaided modes of communication which are those produced by the body, such as speech, vocalizations, gestures, sign language, etc. with aided modes of communication which are those that require support and tools external to the body to produce, such as speech-generating devices, orthography, objects, photos, light-tech boards and books, etc. (ASHA, n.d.). The combination and simultaneous use of unaided and aided AAC forms an individual's AAC system.
It is a common misconception that AAC impedes speech and language development and use. However, extensive research has shown that AAC enhances speech and language development (Romski & Sevcik, 2005). AAC is not alternative for everyone who benefits from it; AAC can be augmentative. It is useful in developing language and speech while providing them with access to a functional and reliable communication method. It can also serve as a communication breakdown repair tool to minimize frustration when speech is not understood.
AAC is not only beneficial to those who have expressive communication impairments, but it can also benefit those who have receptive communication impairments.
Although sign language is a valid communication method, it is not universally understood and those who have fine motor impairments may not be able to produce sign language. AAC can be used to bridge the communication gap between those with hearing impairments and those who do not and do not know sign language by using universally recognized symbols (i.e., orthography, pictures, etc.) to make auditory communication visual and accessible to all.
AAC can provide visual support for communicators who can hear but have receptive language deficits. The voice output paired with the symbolic representation of language fosters the development of receptive language skills. It also enhances the development of the communicator’s literacy skills as they simultaneously hear the word pronunciation while seeing its written form (Mirenda, 2008). AAC is a tool to enhance expressive and receptive language.
At Forbes AAC, we strive to provide quality tools and support to build a strong foundation which allows everyone to actively engage in their environment and with those around them through educating society on all communication modes and needs.
“For people without disabilities, technology makes things easier. For people with disabilities, technology makes things possible” (International Business Machines, 1991).
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.asha.org/njc/aac/
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (n.d.). Better Hearing and Speech Month 2023. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved April 19, 2023, from https://www.asha.org/bhsm/
International Business Machines. (1991). Technology And Persons with Disabilities. Atlanta, GA: IBM Support Programs
Mirenda, P. (2008). A Back Door Approach to Autism and AAC. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 24(3), 220–234. https://doi.org/10.1080/08990220802388263
Romski, M. A., & Sevcik, R. A. (2005). Augmentative Communication and Early Intervention Myths and Realities. Infants & Young Children, 18(3), 174–185. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001163-200507000-00002
Hannah Foley, B.A. is the Content Creator at Forbes AAC. She has over four years of experience in AAC education and implementation, in addition to over 24 years of personal experience using AAC and AT tools to navigate society as someone who has a (dis)ability. Hannah is dedicated to providing quality training and implementation resources to support teams to facilitate the integration of AAC into all of life's activities to maximize the communicative skill development and meaningful engagement of those who use AAC.