Everyone needs to communicate. We communicate with others to
exchange ideas and to express feelings like happiness and sadness.
Communication is also necessary to express your desires or wants
and needs. Not everyone communicates in the same way.
What is communication?
Communication is the exchanging of information, in some
way---whether talking, gesturing, writing or using a communication
board or device. Talking is probably the fastest and easiest for
most; however, if an individual is unable to use his/her voice to
communicate, then an alternative method of communication is needed.
If individuals are not given a chance to communicate their wants
and needs, they may develop some "inappropriate behaviors."
Behavior, whether appropriate or not, is a form of
What is augmentative and alternative
- Very simply, it is communicating without the use of your
- It includes facial expressions, body language, gestures,
pictures, and electronic devices.
- Think about how babies communicate (body movements, facial
expressions, gestures, crying, etc.).
- Everyone (with or without disabilities) uses some form of AAC:
body language, gestures, facial expressions, writing.
- People with severe disabilities may need other AAC, like
communication boards or electronic devices, because body movements
of people with disabilities might be different or impaired, their
gestures or body language may be different.
When is a communication device needed?
- The type or style of communication depends on the audience (to
a parent, teacher, friend) and what is being communicated.
- The communication device needs to be available/accessible at
all times to be used effectively.
- Communication devices can be used for habilitative and
rehabilitative purposes to teach conversation skills, language,
vocabulary, and speech.
- Using a communication device can be a temporary part of life,
for instance regaining speech after an accident, or it may be
Things to consider when choosing a communication
- An individual's needs and abilities should be considered.
- Will a communication board or augmentative (electronic) device
- Communication boards can be simple (2 pictures) to complex
(many pages), no speech output, inexpensive.
- Augmentative devices can have speech output, be hooked up to
computers and telephones, can be expensive.
More things to consider:
- Is it easy to program?
- Type of speech, digitized or synthesized?
- Size of the keys, is a keyguard necessary?
- Size and weight of the device, as communication develops will
capabilities of machine increase? How much memory does it
- Type of warranty, lease program available?
- Is there a spelling mode, for spontaneous communication?
- Is there support available from the company on how to use the
device, and what happens when it needs to be repaired?
- Is funding available?
Communication in the classroom:
Using a communication device takes time, lots of time,
and patience by everyone -- user, teacher, other students. Here are
some hints that might be helpful:
- Plan ahead by sending 2 or 3 questions home with the student to
prepare for the next class.
- Record essays, reports, and poems in AAC device so the student
can share his/her work like everyone else.
- Encourage the use of the device by allowing for response time
- Encourage the use of the device during free time or
- Utilize group work on an assignment to further encourage
student use of the device.
- Integrate speech therapy into the classroom to help keep the
Resources for Augmentative Alternative
Aides Manufacturing Assoc.)
P.O. Box 1039
Evanston, IL 60204
(CAMA represents many companies)
Minneapolis, MN 55414-1312
224 S.E. 16th
St., Ste. 2
Ames, IA 50010
26210 Emery Rd., Ste. 302
Warrensville Heights, OH 44128
P.O. Box 1579
Solana Beach, CA 92075
Prentke Romich Co.
1022 Heyl Rd.
(formerly Sentient Systems
2100 Wharton St., Ste. 630
Pittsburgh, PA 15203
40015 Sierra Hwy., B-145
Palmdale, CA 93550-2117
Zygo Industries, Inc.
P.O. Box 1008
Portland, OR 97207
Source: Center for Disability Information and Referral (CeDIR) at Indiana Institute on Disability and Community