Individuals who have disabilities affecting written and verbal communication use forms of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) to interact socially, transfer information, or communicate wants and needs. AAC must be able to augment or replace these different types of interaction and does so either through unaided communication or through aided low-tech and aided high-tech approaches.
Unaided communication is making use of a person's own body. This could be pointing, gesturing or pantomime, speech or vocalizations, sign language, and finger spelling. Aided communication includes the use of pens, computers, pointing devices (i.e. head pointer), letter or picture boards, dedicated electronic devices, or apps on mobile devices. Low-tech or manual devices are typically items that don't need a power supply, such as communication books or boards. High-tech or electronic devices are also in the aided communication category and are made up of computers and dedicated voice output devices.
Digitized speech devices - Provide age appropriate, easily changeable messages. Digitized speech devices allow you to record a set number of messages based on your overlay selection.
Synthesized speech devices -Allow a greater number of messages to be pre-programmed as well as real-time creation through on-screen keyboards (letter or picture). Because this type of system is computer-based a number of words and messages can be pre-programmed.
- Icon based systems also allow the creation of multiple pages by separating message screens into categories (i.e., food, school, home, clothing). This also includes mobile devices with speech communication apps.
- Portable Keyboards Provides text to speech communication through use of a keyboard. Requires individuals to be able to spell. Most devices allow you to store up programmable synthesized instant messages.
These devices enhance the volume of speech produce by an individual in order for his or her voice to be audible. People who benefit from this technology have the ability to annunciate but lack the ability to project their voice. .
Head Pointers - These are one of the many alternative access methods for individuals who are unable to use their fingers, hands or arms. This pointing device can be used to access a picture/letter board to spell out messages, to point to symbols, or to hit buttons on a voice output communication device. Head pointers can be used with a standard keyboard on the computer or can have a stylus on the end for use on a touchscreen.
Switches - Allow individuals to preform external clicks for a computer or mobile technology based communication system. Switches are chosen depending on the user's method of activation. Switches can be positioned near the portion of the body where the individual has the most consistent use. Switches vary in sizes, materials, connectivity, and touch sensitivity.
Picture Boards - These are a low-tech, simple communication method that can be accessed by pointing with a finger, hand, head pointer, or mouth stick. Producing a message is easily accomplished by selecting one or more pictures together to create a phrase or sentence.