Typically Mid-tech aids use paper or laminated sheets where printed symbols are placed in a fixed grid of cells. Some devices have speech output and some offer extra accessibility options, but all require that someone changes the sheet when new
vocabulary is required. These options offer instant access at one or two levels, reduce memory load and encourage direct responses, as vocabulary is built with human recorded messages rather than speech synthesis.
AbleNet offer many switches that can be used for recording
messages and others such as the Quicktalker 7, 12 and 23 that have robust grids with templates for printing out (example core board). Battery
operated, you press the cell and the message or symbol label is said aloud. AbleNet
provide their Remarkable Ideas and an Action Dictionary as a free epub book of activities along with online learning activities.
Attainment Company make the GoTalk 4+, 9+,20+ and 32+ which also allow messages to be recorded for each cell and there is software to make the templates but try LessonPix and make your own 20 cell GoTalk sample communication chart.
LessonPix also offer overlays for AMDI devices such as the Tech/Talk
- Single message devices can be useful for 'cause and effect' activities and offer a stepping stone to the possibility of 2 -3 recording levels and some have buttons with transparent covers for symbols.
- Multiple cell devices tend to come with templates that can be copied or developed online using any licence free symbols - free examples can be found on LessonPix.
- Often high contrast and clear block colouring is used for images rather than detailed symbols.
- Symbol sizes may vary and label text needs to be larger than on an iPad or other high tech aid - there is no Zoom feature.
- The devices vary in complexity and how many levels of audio recording are possible.
- Just as with paper-based, no tech or very low tech these devices need to come with clear instructions, training, modelling and support with regular reviews.
Many AAC devices are now based on a mainstream tablet with
specialist software or apps. However, those tailored to a user as a dedicated communication aid are still very popular. Dedicated AAC devices tend to have louder speech output, meaning that the person can communicate more easily in groups.
There are also many more access options for those with physical disabilities and may come with added sturdiness and reliability due to their special cases and company support.
There are several companies with dedicated systems such as the Tobii dynavox devices, AbleNet QuickTalker,
Inclusive Technology and Liberator AAC aids in the UK. There
are many options for commercial board building software that also works as a communication application with speech output, such as MindExpress or Grid 3 and can be linked to environmental aids as well as social networking.
- Make sure the AAC device chosen has access to a board building application as well as a communication app. These may be integrated in more sophisticated systems.
- Personalise the communication board as soon as possible as well as the aid so that there is a sense of ownership.
- Don't forget 'masking' when there may be an overload of symbols on a grid, rather than removing them and the ability to use visual scene displays when discussing topics, as
these can offer a 'just-in-time' programming - adding symbols on the fly.
- AAC use may still come with feelings of stigma and high levels of abandonment, so encouragement by offering easy access to most used words and engaging symbols is important
- Awareness that high tech may not work in all settings, so other options should always be available for example a communication book or keyring.