Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) devices have emerged as crucial tools for enhancing communication and interaction among individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). AAC encompasses a wide array of strategies and technologies designed to facilitate effective communication in individuals who face challenges in speech and language development.
What are AAC Devices?
AAC devices are communication tools that aid individuals with limited or no verbal speech in expressing their thoughts, needs, and desires. These devices serve as alternative means of communication for individuals with ASD, helping them overcome communication barriers and enabling meaningful interaction with their environment and peers.
Why are AAC Devices Used?
The utilization of AAC devices is pivotal for individuals with ASD who struggle with speech and language development. These devices offer a means to bridge the communication gap, reduce frustration, and enhance social interaction. AAC devices empower individuals with ASD to communicate effectively, promote language development, and facilitate engagement in social and educational settings.
Science Behind AAC Devices:
Recent meta-analyses (Aydin & Diken, 2020) have highlighted the effectiveness of AAC interventions for individuals with ASD. A study by Ganz, Davis, Lund, Goodwyn, and Simpson (2012) has demonstrated the positive impact of AAC interventions on communication skills and challenging behaviors. Contrary to concerns, AAC interventions have not impeded speech development; in some cases, they have even improved speech skills (Ganz, Mason, et al., 2014). The research also emphasizes the importance of addressing various communicative functions beyond requesting, including social interactions and joint attention (Ganz, Earles-Vollrath, et al., 2012).
Types of AAC Devices Available:
AAC devices encompass a spectrum of options ranging from low-tech to high-tech solutions.
Low-Tech AAC Devices: These devices include communication boards with pictures, symbols, or words that individuals can point to. For instance, a child with ASD can use a picture board to communicate basic needs like “eat,” “drink,” or “go.”
High-Tech AAC Devices: These devices utilize technology to facilitate communication. Speech-generating devices (SGDs) are an example, allowing users to select symbols or words on a screen, which the device then vocalizes. Another example is mobile AAC apps, such as Proloquo2Go, which offer similar functionality on portable devices like smartphones and tablets.
Considerations for Selecting an AAC Device:
Individual Characteristics: Factors such as age, cognitive abilities, sensory preferences, and motor skills should be considered when selecting an AAC device.
Communication Needs: The specific communication goals of the individual, including the types of messages they need to convey, play a crucial role in device selection.
Context and Environment: The settings in which the AAC device will be used, such as home, school, or community, impact the device’s portability and features.
Multimodal Approach: A combination of AAC modes, including speech approximations, gestures, and facial expressions, may be effective for facilitating communication.
Preference and Choice: Involving the individual with ASD and their family in the selection process helps ensure the device aligns with their preferences and needs.
AAC devices offer a transformative solution for individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder, empowering them to communicate effectively and engage meaningfully with their surroundings. Supported by scientific research and a range of available options, AAC interventions hold the potential to unlock communication barriers, enhance language development, and promote social interaction for individuals with ASD. By considering individual characteristics, communication needs, and contextual factors, stakeholders can make informed decisions when selecting an appropriate AAC device, ultimately fostering improved communication outcomes and enriching the lives of individuals with ASD.
Aydin, O., & Diken, I. H. (2020). Studies Comparing Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems (AAC) Applications for Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, 55(2), 119-141. https://www.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http://search.proquest.com/scholarly-journals/studies-comparing-augmentative-alternative/docview/2405311499/se-2
Beukelman, D. & Mirenda, P. (2013). Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Supporting Children & Adults with Complex Communication Needs 4th Edition. Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.
Ganz, J. B., Davis, J. L., Lund, E. M., Goodwyn, F. D., & Simpson, R. L. (2012). Meta-analysis of PECS with individuals with ASD: Investigation of targeted versus non-targeted outcomes, participant characteristics, and implementation phase. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 33(2), 406–418. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ridd.2011.09.023
Ganz, J. B., Mason, R. A., Goodwyn, F. D., Boles, M. B., Heath, A. K., & Davis, J. L. (2014). Interaction of participant characteristics and type of AAC with individuals with ASD: A meta-analysis. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 119(6), 516–535. https://doi.org/10.1352/1944-7558-119.6.516
Ganz, J. B., Earles-Vollrath, T. L., Heath, A. K., Parker, R. I., Rispoli, M. J., & Duran, J. B. (2011a). A meta-analysis of single case research studies on aided augmentative and alternative communication systems with individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(1), 60–74. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10803-011-1212-2