With high tech AAC systems, the possibilities are truly endless when it comes to providing a voice to those with communication deficits. From remote therapy (teletherapy) to literacy supports, high tech AAC seems to have it all. It makes you wonder if low tech AAC devices are still relevant and useful for children with communication challenges.
What is Low Tech AAC?
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a term referring to all communication other than natural speech. Low-Tech AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) comprises tools and strategies that do not involve electronics and do not require batteries. Examples of Low-tech AAC are PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), symbol charts, communication boards, communication books, etc.
The user selects letters, words, or phrases from the communication charts to convey their message. Users can use a body part such as their finger or toe, a head pointer, eye gaze, mouth stick, light pointer, or a hand-held pointer for the selection.
Low-Tech Vs High-Tech AAC
High-tech AAC comprises tools and strategies that use electricity, electronics, and batteries.
High Tech AAC Pros:
- Compatibility of high tech AAC devices with social media and messaging platforms
- Ability to add vocabulary as per the user’s progress
- Supports literacy
- Auditory feedback serves as a cue for the user to learn the language
- Facilitates communication autonomy by giving the user a wide choice of vocabulary that supports a variety of communicative functions.
Low Tech AAC Pros:
- Less expensive than high tech AAC options
- Easier to create alphabet charts or low tech boards
- Can be used in most physical environments including swimming pools, beaches, bath tubs etc. Laminated communication charts can be used under all weather conditions.
- Does not require charging
Why a Multi-Pronged Approach Might be the Right Formula
Communication is complex and we constantly use several modes of communication to get our message across to others. We use facial expressions, gestures, and body language in addition to our speech to communicate. Similarly, people with communication challenges could potentially use multimodal communication to convey their messages.
Low-tech AAC, including laminated communication charts, is useful in demanding environments like pools and beaches. You can also use low tech AAC as a backup communication mode in case the high tech AAC systems run out of charge, or are not functional. You can take a printout of your child’s vocabulary and keep it in your bag or car for quick accessibility.
Taking away their means to communicate can leave people feeling helpless and frustrated. So, users must be encouraged to choose multiple modes of communication. When used in conjunction with high tech systems, low tech AAC devices can be a powerful communication solution for people with complex communication needs.