See: Definitions and information at Communication Matters
Note: different types of AAC equipment are listed on the Communication Matters website and the ACE Centre SpeechBubble database
What is a Communication Aid?
A communication aid helps an individual to communicate more effectively with people around them.
Communication aids are also referred to as AAC devices. AAC refers to Augmentative and Alternative Communication, which Communication Matters define as,
… a huge range of techniques which support or replace spoken communication. These include gesture, signing, symbols, word boards, communication boards and books, as well as Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs).
There are two main types of AAC system: Unaided Communication and Aided Communication.
Unaided communication does not use additional equipment. Body language, gesture, vocalisation, signing are typically used.
Aided communication uses equipment, but this ranges from low-tech to high-tech methods, with pictures and symbols often used instead of, or together with words and with alternative hardware options available to provide access. Whilst a low-tech method of communication like a simple, laminated communication book to carry around with a few pages of pictures or symbols would be a communication aid, the term ‘device’ would only describe a more high-tech solution. An electronic communication aid can be a dedicated device built for that job, which does nothing else, or it can be a standard computer running specialist communication aid software as well – this includes Apple tablets which are increasingly being used to help people communicate.
AAC equipment – hardware and software – may also be referred to as ‘AAC systems’. Each has pros and cons and what is suitable for one individual will not necessarily suit another person. A low-tech solution is not inferior to a high-tech solution. Selection will depend on personal preference, as well as abilities and needs, with method of access, environmental factors and funding also primary considerations. A specialist assessment through a speech & language therapist or communication aid centre will help to identify the most appropriate AAC system or systems for an individual.
Communication aid hardware and software is not the full picture, however. Training and ongoing support are vital factors in determining successful use of a communication aid for any individual.
Although this information is believed to be accurate, you are strongly advised to make your own independent enquiries.