A question most parents often ask is, "can I use technology to communicate with my verbally disabled child?" The answer is a resounding yes! Unlike ten decades ago where children with non-verbal problems would be left out of classroom activities and social events, it's a great honour that technology has opened avenues for communication with all types of individuals.
It's noteworthy that everyone was once having difficulties with oral language and reading skills, but somehow we acquired those skills through support and instructional tools. Similarly, most non-verbal learners are doing perfectly okay with the help of various modern tools. Before diving deep into modern tools, It's essential we remind ourselves about AAC.
What is AAC?
AAC is an abbreviation for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. AAC is a replacement for the standard way of Communication. It's essential to note that oral communication alone will not be not helpful for our loved ones with verbal disabilities. For this reason, having an alternative form of Communication is the perfect innovation to communicate their needs and wants.Most people are familiar with the word "sign language". Sign language is an alternative form of Communication.
But there are two major types of AAC — the high tech AAC and the Low tech AAC.
Low Tech AAC
The low tech AAC is an alternative form of communication without the involvement of technology. This involves the use of pictures, charts, calendars, or paper pictograms. To make a simple Low tech AAC, you can cut pictures from an old magazine then glue then on a blank carbon paper. The chart can be used both in classroom and at home.
Characteristics of low tech AAC
Low tech AAC involves the use of PECS (picture exchange and communication). As the name implies, PECS involves learner's communication by exchanging pictures. For example, if a child feels the urge to attend the washroom, they can choose a pictogram that best conjures their present feeling. In this case, they can choose the photo of a washroom. Low tech AAC also involves charts and graphical representation of schedules. For example, it's a great idea to make a hygiene chart particularly if the child is struggling following routines. A good hygiene chart could involve a photo of someone combing their hair, brushing their teeth, or tying the shoelace. Such visual representation can be effective in shaping a child's learning process.
Pros of Low tech AAC
Low tech AAC is relatively advantageous considering it's cheap. For those comfortable with modelling charts and crafting images, low-tech AAC can be a perfect choice.
Easy to create: All you need is a set of pictures relevant to the child's needs, a pair of scissors paired, glue and a carbon paper. The goal is to create picotgams that will help them to expresstheir needs. For example, if the child is hungry, he is likely to point at a cup photo. Try to make drawings of a plate to represent dinner, a toothbrush to represent morning hygiene, and so on.
Disadvantages: Constructing a Low tech AAC can be a time-consuming and tedious process considering the chart is a complex type.
Limited vocabulary: Low tech AAC can be restrictive to specific pictures or words. This makes it difficult for the child to express particular needs.
HIGH TECH AAC
High tech AAC is a technology-based alternative communication method. Examples include text to speech devices, aac apps, and other speech-generating softwares. Most speech-language pathologists recommend high-tech AAC apps for Non-verbal Autistics, Dyslexics, and learners with hearing or verbal impairment.
High tech AAC apps are easily customizable
With AAC apps, parents are not limited to the number of pictures or words. You can upload tons of images relevant for the child's communication purposes. Your child will only have to touch on the desired image to convey his present needs.
Autonomy: AAC apps enable children with special needs to learn at their own pace and convenience. Unlike traditional learning methods where learners are bound to the supervision of an adult — requiring a tutor to speak out the words for a child, AAC apps will vocalize those words for your child.
Voice recorder: High tech AAC apps and software come with an inbuilt feature for recording a voice. You can record the names of places, activities, events or different feelings. Therefore, your child is not restricted to certain types of words for practice.
Disadvantages: Many high tech AAC apps can be costly, considering they come with multiple functionalities and easy interface.
Bottom line, there are tons of benefits that come with High tech AAC apps and software. Although they can be costly, there are lots of others that come at a relatively lower price.
A few parents may have been led to believe that AAC will stop their children from language and verbal acquisition. It should be noted that no research has proved the existence of such claims. Conversely, recent research reveals that AAC improves the process of language acquisition and reduces the frustration of children not having to communicate. The key point is that we all want our children— able and disable— to be able to communicate without the need of feeling frustration. We can achieve that by using the most sophisticated tools available in our time. For parents concerned about their children's communication skills, we are confident to recommend the Talkii app. With Talkii, you can get all the features discussed in this article. For example, users can upload photos/create a pictogram. Once you've learned to upload pictures, the next thing you want to try is the voice recording features. Alternatively, you can use the inbuilt synthetic voice, which is pretty decent.
The app further provides options such as scheduling activities for your child, organizing pictures into categories, text to speech and sentence construction. All these attributes make Talkii one of a kind.