October is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Awareness Month.
Augmentative - to augment or to assist;
Alternative - an alternate to speech.
Both these are used to assist communication, improve opportunities to communicate, and provide a means to communicate. AAC research has shown time again that if a person has the ability to use their speech the introduction and use of an AAC does not stop the development of speech, but in fact will enhance the person's communication, reduce frustration and provide opportunities for language and communication to develop, if or when speech does develop.
AAC can be split into 2 main areas, aided and unaided
Aided - when the person uses or carries something - “an aid" to communicate
An aid can be technology based, such as a dedicated Voice output device,
without technology, ranging from a pen and paper to write a note, to using familiar objects in the person’s environment.
Unaided - when a person does not use an aid, but instead uses their hands using sign and gesture, body language and facial expression.
A skilled speech pathologist working in the area of AAC will assess and consider and introduce to you a total communication system, which may include all or some aspect of both aided and unaided communication.
Check out this excellent handout from WA ILC (ILC tech) on Top tips for Implementing AAC
Professional and User Support Networks
Many Speech Pathologists who specialise in this area are members of groups such as
- AGOSC Inc. AGOSCI Inc welcomes professions and users of AAC to be part of their network, their biannual conference and their PD events. There is a listserv discussion page, where everyone generously provides support, advice and ideas
- their state based Key Word Sign group, eg Key Word Sign Victoria.
There are many in Australia who are also part of the International AAC network, ISAAC.
A number of Speech Pathologists, who specialise in AAC, are also members of SpeechPathology Australia. You can access the online listing of people who specialise in AAC from Speech Pathology Australia.
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