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What we mean by a continuum of systems and devices
What range of devices do we have available to us
Starting from low to medium and then high tech on the AAC journey.
The aim is to illustrate some of the ways in which symbols can be used with the various types of assistive technologies (AT).
Key Points to Remember
Enhance abilities by making sure the design of the AAC system will provide for the highest level of language that can be achieved
The AAC tools and AT strategies and techniques need to cope with the immediate communication needs, as well as anticipated future communication needs.
Aim to overcome barriers by offering support in the use of AAC systems at every possible moment.
Always encourage any intended interactions and skills building through consistent feedback
Activity - Aided and Unaided AAC systems
We talk about unaided and aided AAC systems when we start out on the AAC journey. This is not a complex idea.
Think about which of the following interactions would be considered aided or unaided as you match the labels to the images below.
Communication Boards that are easy to use as a No / Low Tech aid
When you start with one or two pictures of objects,
or simple choices with symbols, it is the communication interactions that are important in order to encourage understanding and expressions of intent, whether they are verbal or non-verbal. Before we look at some uses of assistive technology
you might like to learn how to make a simple symbol or picture board or chart that can be used in a ring binder or portable device such as a PicSeePal. This chart will just use pictures
available on the internet, not symbols designed especially for AAC.
In this case the communication board or chart will be a single page of images or symbols that you can make using Google Slides. We will introduce you to other chart making apps later - The YouTube video has a transcript.
Activity - Features for designing a board
You have been asked to build a communication chart for a particular child and you have been given the vocabulary list to use on a grid with a number of cells. Complete the crossword activity below, as a way of confirming some of the features you will need to
think about. You will be taken to another page and then return to this topic.
These devices tend to be battery operated and can be used
for simple messages. In the main image at the top of this topic, you can see two girls with a single button device which can have recorded messages or allow access to electronic (battery operated) toys and more complex AAC devices.
The child learns to activate the switch in any way they can - often it might be with a fist, hand, head or even between the knees. You will learn much more about switch access as we go through the levels on this course.
Many devices in the early stages are used for simple yes/no and single word/phrase recordings or requests.
Make a simple table or list in your reflective journal and
find the features of at least 5 AAC devices from companies you know or Inclusive Technology. Only add the ones you feel are relevant to helping you make device choices in the future. These are commercial products that can be used in multilingual situations and they will change names and types over time.
You may not find some are available in your country, but it is learning about the types of device rather than the actual make that is important. Understanding the features available will be important when thinking about which device is most suitable for a child at a certain time for the tasks they need to undertake whilst planning to progress from one device to another in the future.
High Tech Devices
High tech systems depend on mains power and batteries.
They may be known as speech generating devices (SDGs) or Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs). They may run on computer type operating systems or be dedicated aids with many features that link to environmental aids as well as offering sophisticated
communication systems such as those available from Inclusive Technology.
Feature matching, where we match the child's needs to the features of the device, is necessary and it is not something that just happens once in the AAC journey. We often think about solutions being within a continuum of options based upon both language progression, and device features. The type of devices that are likely to enhance
this AAC journey often require additional strategies to make interactions possible. Think about:
output methods - text to speech or visual means on an electrinic device.
compatibility and interoperability - devices and systems if a child has access to more than one.
robustness and reliability - a systems longevity will be a concern and back ups will be needed!
Overview of Low, Medium and High Tech Devices
"In reality, AAC is a spectrum, with different systems spanning along a continuum. There are high-tech,
low-tech, and no-tech options, with each selection factoring in the cognitive, motor, and cultural needs of those utilizing it." Hopf, R. (2016). The augmentative/alternative communication spectrum.
A YouTube video from 'Stepping into AAC' provides a 4.03 minute overview of several different types of technologies that you may find in any AAC situation. Not all will be available in all countries or settings but the speaker talks about the need to 'Make Space for AAC' throughout the day what ever system is used.
There are many different types of AAC systems and devices available.