- Who can benefit from AAC and why?
AAC can be beneficial for children who find communication difficult because they have little or no clear speech. If a child has problems in understanding or using spoken language they might benefit from some form of AAC. This could be the use of signs or symbols, or a communication aid. AAC covers a wide range of strategies and systems which can benefit people with many different conditions that affect their ability to communicate using spoken language either temporarily or in the long term. This can be as a result of a congenital problem, such as cerebral palsy, or an acquired condition, for example a head injury.
Some people use AAC to express themselves, others use it to help them understand what is said to them.
- How can I find out what might help my child?
Your child’s speech and language therapist (SLT) should be able to advise you about whether your child would benefit from AAC, or to refer you to a local specialist therapist or regional specialist centre for a detailed assessment.
Communication Matters runs regular roadshows around the UK at which you can see communication aids and meet with suppliers. They also produce a series of ‘Focus on…‘ leaflets that offer an introduction to various aspects of AAC.
- What types of AAC are there?
AAC is usually divided into ‘aided’ and ‘unaided’ systems. Unaided systems do not require any additional equipment and include systems such as signing, eye pointing, facial expression and gesture.
Aided systems can be further divided into low and high tech.
Low tech systems, such as picture, symbol, word or alphabet boards and books do not need power to work. They can also include the use of everyday objects and objects of reference which are sometimes used to give people with complex learning needs clues about what is about to happen.
High tech systems require a power supply to work. They can range from devices which can play a single recorded message to much more complex systems requiring the user to select a sequence of pictures, symbols or letters to produce spoken output.
Most people who use AAC use a combination of aided and unaided systems.
- How do I know it is the right AAC system for them?
No single AAC system is right for everyone. Which system or systems to use depends on the individual child and the people with whom they are communicating.
The choice of an AAC system depends on many different factors, age, current abilities and circumstances.
There are a wide variety of options and therefore it is best to seek advice from a speech and language therapist, or through a specialist AAC assessment centre to identify the best option for an individual. If a high tech system is identified as being appropriate it might be possible to arrange a short term loan or rental of a device, either through an assessment centre or directly through the supplier to get a better idea of whether the system will work for your child and family.
- Are there any parents I can talk to?
Your speech and language therapist might be able to put you in touch with other AAC users or their families in your local area.
The group 1Voice runs family fun days and weekends with role models who use AAC and opportunities for AAC users and their families to meet together.
Contact a Family might also know of contacts in your local area.
- How do I get funding for my child’s communication aid?
If the need for a communication aid is identified in your child’s statement of special educational need in England and Wales then the local authority is obliged to fund it, though the relatively high cost of devices means that this is often difficult. Currently health authorities are sometimes able to offer support for funding, but this is not common.
Many people resort to seeking charitable funding to provide high tech communication aids.
There are some charities that might be able to offer support with fund raising. These include the Sequal Trust and the Aidis Trust.
Many communication aid suppliers offer useful funding information on their websites.