AAC Apps for Adults with Acquired Communication Disorders

A brain injury or neurological disorder can rob an adult of vital communication skills. Read on to find out how acquired communication disorders can cause speech, language, and communication impairments and how AAC apps for adults can help.

What are Acquired Communication Disorders?Adult in need of AAC

Adults with normal speech, communication, and cognition skills can lose some or all of their abilities due to a severe illness or an accident. Some of the common causes of acquired communication disorder are:

  • Traumatic brain injury due to falls, motor accidents, or assaults
  • Dementia
  • Motor neurone disease
  • Parkinson’s Disease
  • Stroke
  • Head and neck cancer
  • Other neurological conditions

Skills Affected by Communication Disorder in Adults

There are several components of communication such as speech, receptive and expressive language, and cognition that can get affected by communication disorders. Family members may have a hard time understanding the difficulties their loved ones face while communicating. All this may also cause them to withdraw from socializing or avoiding social contact altogether. They may undergo changes in personality due to the emotional trauma resulting from the physical deficits. Learning about the exact nature of communication impairment can help in arranging targeted treatment and therapy.

Common Types of Communication Disorders in Adults

Here are the common types of communication disorders adults can acquire over their lifetime:

  • Aphasia
    A loss of the ability to produce or comprehend language. Stroke in the left side of the brain is a common cause of the disability. Adults with Aphasia may have trouble with reading, writing, using numbers, drawing, sign language, using gestures, and expressing their thoughts using the right words.
  • Dysarthria
    A speech disorder resulting from damage to parts of the brain controlling muscle movement. Adults with the disability can have slowness, weakness or poor coordination of speech. The severity of the disability and extent of speech impairment may vary from person to person. Speech may seem mumbled in adults with mild dysarthria while it may be more slurred and unintelligible in others.
  • Apraxia of Speech
    An oral motor disorder where the individual is unable to make the necessary motor plans involving voice, lips, and tongue to produce speech.
  • Cognitive-Communication skills
    Communication disorders that affect attention, judgement, memory, perception, reasoning, and other cognitive abilities. Trauma due to falls, automobile accidents or a stroke in the right side of the brain can cause these communication deficits.

Why Use AAC

Adults interacting with each other

A tragic accident or a chronic neurological condition can cause significant life changes. Communication disorders create additional distress in adults who can become withdrawn due to their diminishing abilities. This adds to the agony of family members and caregivers grappling with the disability of their loved ones.
AAC(Augmentative and Alternative Communication)  devices for adults prevents them from being alienated.  AAC also lets them be an active participant in making decisions related to their healthcare. Caregivers too can better understand the needs of those they are looking after. This not only allows them to provide the best care possible, but also prevents caregiver role strain.

What AAC system to use

Adults with communication deficits may or may not have accompanying physical or cognitive impairments. So, SLPs need to evaluate each individual to decide which AAC will be the right fit for them. As with all augmentative communication solutions, there cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Here are a few factors to consider while choosing an AAC system:

  • Motor Skills
    Patients affected by stroke and certain neurological disorders may have physical impairments in addition to communication challenges. So, the choice of AAC devices for adults should depend on whether they will be able to navigate the system without difficulty.
    For ambulatory patients, a portable and reliable system such as a robust AAC app whose features support specific motor issues might be the best option. For those who may have trouble swiping the screen, or touching and selecting smaller buttons, it is important to choose apps where icon sizes, speed, navigation options, and screen parameters can be customized easily.
  • Communication Abilities and Preferences
    Since communication disorders can affect cognition, visual supports may be more helpful for certain adults. Low tech AAC such as picture cards can help them with remembering things and initiating conversations. If they prefer high tech solutions such as an AAC app, it is advisable to choose one that supports multiple modes such as symbol-based and text-based communication. This is important because symptoms can worsen over time with in case of degenerative diseases. So, it is wise to choose an AAC solution that can adapt to the user’s changing needs.
  • Ease of Learning
    The cognitive abilities of an individual determines the system they are capable of learning to use. Ease of learning is an important feature to look for because it can influence the continuous use of AAC by a user. Complicated design can discourage the user and can result in a lack of motivation to use AAC for communication.
  • Accessibility
    It is crucial to ensure that AAC is available at all times to anyone who needs it. Users who are dependent on high tech systems can be left with no means of effective communication if the AAC device runs out of charge or is not functional. So, they must be encouraged to use multiple strategies such as sign language if the individual is capable of it, or low tech AAC such as symbol charts, along with their AAC apps.

Adults with acquired communication disorders can struggle to come to terms with their loss of abilities. AAC apps for adults, like Avaz, can help them receive the emotional and social support they need to cope with the disability. It also enables them to have meaningful interactions and to maintain a positive relationship with friends and families.

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