Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) refers “to an area of research, clinical, and educational practice. AAC involves attempts to study and when required compensate for temporary or enduring impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions of individuals with severe disorders of speech-language production and/or comprehension, including spoken and written modes of communication”. Individuals with severe communication disorders and for whom gesture, speech, and/or written communication are temporarily or permanently inadequate to meet all of their communication needs use AAC. Speech may be replaced or augmented by:

  • Gesture and body language;
  • Manual sign;
  • Handwriting;
  • Communication aids.

Communication aids are devices developed or adapted for use by persons with disabilities serious communication. Because these people have very different skills, needs and problems, there is a wide range of communication aids. Some people with serious deficiencies in communication can use their hands; others may not, and should use alternatives such as mouth sticks, headsticks, switches or eyes pointing. Some may read and spell, others may not, and need communication aids on the language in which the elements are represented by pictures or symbols such as Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) or Bliss. Some people use wheelchairs that can accommodate large communication devices, others to walk and need small, light aid. A communication aid May be as simple as a piece of cardboard with an empty potato-chip bag stuck on it to represent a desire for chips, or as complex as a portable computer controlled with a passage that speaks and allows the user to speak on the telephone, Internet access, or type a test. The best non-speech communication strategy is one that allows the person seriously impair communication communicate as freely as possible, in as many situations as possible, as many people as possible.

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