I am a huge believer in Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). I have been using AAC for quite some time, but I felt I needed to know more. This year I enrolled in an AAC masters degree and I’m loving it! Here are 10 reasons why I love AAC so much:
1. Everybody has the right to be heard
All human beings have the right to communicate. In one of the AAC articles I am reading for my masters, Janice Light wrote the following:
Communication is the essence of human life. Communication is about touching other people and about having our lives touched by others. Communication is about laughing and arguing, learning and wondering why, telling stories, complaining about what is or what isn’t, sharing dreams, celebrating victories. Developing communicative competence allows us to realize the essence of our humanity- to touch the lives of others and be touched by others.
This totally sums it up for me. Every single person has the right to these experiences. If they are not able to use speech, for whatever reason, why should they be denied this right? AAC provides access to communication for all. There are no prerequisites for a person to start using AAC.
2. AAC is supported by autistic people
I think it is important to listen to the population of people that you are working with. I work with many autistic children. If you wonder why I am not using the ‘disability first’ lingo of “children with autism”, it is because I respect autistic people and would like to address them in the way that they wish to be addressed. This is a different topic for a different day. Back to AAC! AAC is the only method of communication intervention that I have never heard any autistic child or adult be negative about. Every piece of writing by non-speaking autistic people emphasizes how AAC changed their lives.
3. AAC grows as technology grows
As technology advances, so does the field of AAC. Not all AAC is high-tech, but I love the fact that I get to work with high-tech AAC devices on a daily basis. Finding out what new developments are popping up in the field makes me feel like a kid in a candy store!
4. AAC is fun!
Because AAC reduces the pressure on my clients, therapy becomes so much more fun – for them and for me! I also love making materials, such as visual timetables and visual supports. AAC lets me merge my work with my hobbies, and I love that.
5. AAC is easily accessible
Back in the day, it wasn’t too easy for every individual to access AAC, especially high-tech options. This is no longer the case. Accessibility in certain countries, such as SA, is still a problem, but not as much as before. There are people in rural areas using free AAC apps or text-to-speech technology on basic smartphones.
6. AAC lets me utilize the child’s interests
If a child has limited interests, it is difficult to teach them more than a few language concepts using one item only, especially in the beginning phases of therapy. We use the child’s interests and pick a few basic words to stimulate. But then we need to move on to more words, phrases, sentences… and perhaps the activity does not lend itself to that. Perhaps the words or phrases we want to target are too complex to be produced via speech at this point. With the help of AAC, I have taught an autistic child to use 3 word sentences on a pictographic system on his ipad using 1 toy only. Plus he is excited to be in therapy and goes home feeling happy. Win-win situation.
7. AAC makes people happy
I can’t explain the feeling I get when I see a child ‘click’ that they can communicate with AAC. It’s like watching their world open up in front of my eyes. I love it. It makes my job feel worthwhile. It makes them happy and as a result it makes me happy, too.
8. AAC reduces frustration
I have tried going a day without speaking. It’s difficult. I can’t share my thoughts, my feelings, I can’t express my basic needs. It feels as though my humanity has been taken away from me. Naturally this will cause frustration over the long term. If a child is throwing his food every night at supper, perhaps he doesn’t like the taste. Perhaps it gives him a headache. We don’t know. If he is suddenly able to express this reason, his frustration is automatically reduced.
9. AAC increases participation in society
How often do we call people via the telephone? In comparison t0 20 years ago- hardly. We use social media, instant messaging, email, etc. I love that AAC enables participation in social activities that might not be possible otherwise. What you are doing right now is AAC – reading my blog. I am communicating with you via alternative methods of communication other than speech.
10. AAC shocks doubting onlookers
It is easy for people to assume that a child who cannot speak is less intelligent than a child who can, especially if they have associated body movements. I love it when a person is given access to AAC, and the world suddenly realizes that the person is a person with thoughts, feelings and interests, just like anyone else. I can’t imagine how liberating that feeling must be for the person.
In summary (and most importantly), AAC improves the quality of life of the person who uses it. As therapists, shouldn’t this be our overall goal? So, these are my reasons why I love AAC. Why do you love AAC? Leave a comment and share your reason(s).