Communication can be one of the most challenging yet rewarding parts of an autistic’s journey. For those with non-speaking or minimally speaking children, finding ways to connect and understand your child’s needs, thoughts and emotions may seem daunting. However, alternative and augmentative communication (AAC) methods offer life-changing solutions. Using tools like speech-generating devices, picture exchange systems and sign language, you can open a world of expression for your child.
What is an AAC?
Autism is a dynamic disability, which relates to changes in the autistic’s needs and abilities from day to day or moment to moment. Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) refers to methods of communication other than speech that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. Communicating verbally may be difficult for many autistics for various reasons. AAC can be used as an alternative (i.e. instead or speech) or augmentative (to supplement speech) approach. For non-speaking or minimally speaking autistic children, AAC can be a lifeline, offering various strategies and tools to express themselves. From picture-based communication systems to high-tech speech-generating devices, AAC provides a diverse set of options tailored to each child’s unique needs and preferences.
There are multiple kinds of aided AAC – light, mid-range, and high-tech.
Light-Tech AAC : Light-tech AACs are essentially non-electronic communication systems that are outside of one’s body. Some examples include alphabet boards, activity-based communication boards, communication books (such as PODD), picture exchange systems, eye gaze board and the list continues. As part of a robust communication system, light tech AAC has so many great benefits! It is economical, easily accessible, can be customized and developed over time. However, most often the vocabulary is restricted and some might find it cumbersome to add vocabulary continually.
Mid-Tech AAC: Mid-tech AAC utilize batteries or electricity to speak pre-stored voice or text messages, often through the push of a button. Big Mack, Step-by-Step, Go Talk are the commonly used ones. They are most useful while participating in routines, social communication, and “appropriately” answering questions.
High-Tech AAC: High-tech AAC typically has synthesized speech that can say anything programmed in with the language systems. Some major AAC suppliers provide complete devices with support services, training, and warranties or apps without hardware support (Avaz, Proloquo, Coughdrop).
The Benefits of AAC for Non-Speaking or Minimally Speaking Autistic Children
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems provide non-speaking or minimally speaking autistic children with a means to communicate their needs, thoughts, and feelings. AAC encompasses communication methods like speech generating devices, picture exchange systems, and sign language. For children on the autism spectrum who struggle with verbal speech, AAC can be life-changing.
A. Increased Independence and Reduced Frustration
The inability to communicate effectively often leads to increased dependence on caregivers and heightened frustration for both the child and their loved ones. AAC gives children a way to express themselves, ask questions, and convey their needs independently, which helps reduce frustration and leads to improved quality of life.
B. Expanding Vocabulary and Language Skills
AAC systems offer a structured and visual way to introduce and expand vocabulary. Through consistent use, non-speaking or minimally speaking autistic children can develop language skills, enhancing their ability to understand and use words in various contexts.
C. Encouraging Multi-modal Communication
AAC encourages the use of multiple modes of communication, such as combining visual symbols with gestures or spoken words. This multimodal approach provides flexibility and allows children to choose the communication method that feels most comfortable and effective for them.
D. Enhanced Learning and Social Interaction
AAC facilitates learning and social interaction by providing a means for children to participate in conversations actively, answer questions, and share their knowledge or experiences with others. This kind of engaging interaction is crucial for development and building connections.
E. Improved Behaviour
Difficulty communicating is frequently a contributing factor to challenging behaviours in autistic children. AAC allows children to communicate their needs, feelings, and distress in a constructive way. This ability to express themselves appropriately often helps improve behaviour and decrease negative outbursts.
At Starwalkers, we understand the unique needs of non-speaking or minimally-speaking autistics and their families. Our Autism Support Course is designed to provide parents with practical tools and insights to navigate the challenges and support communication and sensory needs of a neurodivergent child. A module in this comprehensive course focuses solely on AAC Support for effective implementation.
Fundamental concepts and evidence-based techniques for communication and sensory support will be covered in great detail. By enrolling in the Autism Support Course, parents and professionals will help you gain a different perspective to the world of Autistics. So why wait? Visit Starwalkers Clinic and gain an exclusive access to the Autism Support Course.