Communication is a fundamental human right and an essential part of the human experience. Multimodal communication is a concept that touches each of our lives, often without us even realizing it. It refers to the use of various communication methods or modes to convey thoughts and feelings. We all use many modalities to communicate - such as facial expressions, gestures, texting, writing, and even body language, to express ourselves.
What is AAC?
AAC stands for “Augmentative and Alternative Communication”. AAC methods include picture boards, sign language, written language, or computer programs to help communicate thoughts, feelings, and needs.
AAC is not limited to a specific age group or demographic. It can be a lifeline for children, adolescents, adults, and seniors who, for various reasons, cannot rely solely on spoken language. This versatile tool enables them to engage with their families, friends, teachers, therapists, and the world at large.
AAC ensures everyone has a way to be understood - no matter how they communicate. Because communication = connection, It's imperative everyone has access and that ALL modalities are honored and respected.
Who Uses AAC?
We all do! Everyone uses multimodal communication in some form or another, whether it be facial expressions, gestures, texting, writing, etc.!
AAC benefits people who sometimes, or all of the time, cannot rely on their speech due to congenital and/or acquired disabilities. This includes but is not limited to autism, cerebral palsy, sensory impairments, genetic syndromes, hearing impairment, stroke, and head injury.
Getting Started With AAC
The first step would be to consult with a professional - Reach out to a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who specializes in AAC. They can provide valuable guidance and assessments.
The SLP will choose the appropriate AAC tools and systems for the individual and then develop communication goals by working with the individual and their support team. These goals should be specific, measurable, and tailored to the individual's needs and abilities.
It's really important that the SLP provides training and support to ensure everyone is comfortable using the system. All members of the individual's team should be familiar with the AAC system and how to use it.
Oftentimes, communicators learn best by observing others. The SLP, caretakers, and other members of the communicators team will model AAC use by using the system during interactions with the individual. This helps them learn how to use it effectively.
Periodically review and adjust the AAC system as the individual's needs and skills evolve. Customization may include adding new vocabulary, adjusting the organization, or changing the interface.
Continual collaboration with the communicator's team is essential. Maintain open communication with the individual's support team, including family members, educators, therapists, and healthcare professionals. Collaboration is crucial for consistency in AAC implementation.
Remember that AAC is highly individualized, and what works for one person may not work for another. Patience, flexibility, and a person-centered approach are key to successfully implementing AAC and enhancing communication for individuals with complex communication needs.
As we celebrate AAC Awareness Month this October, remember that communication is the bridge that connects us all and enriches our lives. AAC is a powerful tool that ensures everyone has a voice, regardless of their abilities or challenges. It's not just a lifeline for individuals with diverse communication needs; it's a testament to our commitment to inclusivity and understanding.
Together, we can create a world where everyone's voice is heard, understood, and valued.
Hannah Bogash, M.S., CCC-SLP Founder, Sunny Skies Therapy Call/Text: (818) 804-8131