Types of AAC

Types of AAC
There are two types of AAC: unaided and aided. Unaided systems rely on the user’s body, while aided devices rely on external equipment (Owens). These systems are not exclusive to each other. In fact, almost no AAC system is complete without both aid types.

Unaided AAC Systems
By definition, “unaided communication systems rely on the user’s body to convey messages. Examples include gestures, body language, and/or sign language” (ASHA). This system requires dexterity and motor skills as well as a certain level of cognitive ability to understand and interpret (ASHA). A user is fortunate if they can meet all the aforementioned requirements. Unaided communication is portable, accessible, and easy to use. Peers will also be able to adapt quickly to understanding and interpreting the user, making socializing and conversing with each other easier for all.

This chart demonstrates how sign language and body language are used together in unaided AAC systems.

This chart demonstrates how sign language and body language are used together in unaided AAC systems.

Aided AAC Systems
Aided devices, or assistive technology, provide options for those who do not speak or lack capabilities to depend mainly on unaided systems. By definition, “aided communication systems require the use of tools or equipment in addition to the user’s body. Methods can range from paper and pencil, to communication books and boards, speech generating devices (SGD’s) and writing output devices” (ASHA). These devices vary in sophistication, with the more sophistication of the device meaning higher the level of aided assistance needed for communication.

Alphabet Boards are examples of no tech aided devices that are used in AAC systems. This device is highly accessible to users and communication partners alike.

Aided devices can be found in no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech levels of sophistication (Owens). No tech relies on easy access objects and tools for both the user and conversation partner. Examples include writing utensils and alphabet boards. Low tech possesses some moving parts, but no electronic qualities. Examples of mid range sophistication devices are BIGmack, Step-by-Step, and VoicePal Max. Electronic and computer based devices are high tech. These can be as simple as pressing pictures and having the computer voice the label or as sophisticated as as a text-to-speech synthesizer. These devices include DynaVox, Lightwriter, and Pathfinder (Owens). The degree of aided device used depends on the level of assistance the client needs for effective communication.

The high tech device shown is a Dynavox. This touch screen augmentative aid uses pictures and audio messages to let it’s user communicate.

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