Augmentative and Alternative Communication Technologies

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Technologies

Gondy Leroy (Claremont Graduate University, USA) and Leo Gianluca De (Claremont Graduate University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-670-4.ch051
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Communication is a dynamic process that creates and conveys a mutual understanding between two or more people. Since this process is complex and not easily taught, there exist many communication disorders ranging from a physical limitation, such as ALS, to a cognitive language disorder, such as autism. Augmentative and alternative communication systems (AACs) help people with communication disorders by providing them substituted means for communicating. These systems range from non-technical solutions, such as a paper-based PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), to elaborate technical solutions, such as a plasma picture communication table. Due to the increased attention to AACs, the Worldwide Health Organization (WHO) provides a framework to evaluate effectiveness. Using this framework as a basis, the authors identified barriers and support factors for AAC effectiveness and subsequently best practices for AAC designs. They conclude with a case study of adapting a paper-based picture-based communication system to mobile devices using open-source software development for use by children with severe autism.
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Language and communication are social in nature. Communication functions as a means for making requests as well as interacting socially (Banzhoff & O'Connor, 2009). Successful participation in communication suggests that participants should feel equal in the interaction and have access to the same resources and attention. Communication should be synchronized so that each participant can respond in a timely manner. The partners should each feel comfortable communicating accurately and genuinely. Active participation also requires shared comprehension to produce and understand messages (Alant, et al., 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Assistive Technology (AT): Assistive Technology (or AT) is any piece of equipment, product or system that improves or maintains the functional abilities of persons with disabilities. (ATIA, 2008)

International Classification of Functioning (ICF): International Classification of Disability, Functioning, and Health (ICF) is a conceptual framework for evaluating outcomes for an individual. It is published by the World Health Organization’s (WHO). The ICF is a revision of the 1980 International Classification of Impairments, Disabilities, and Handicaps (ICIDH) (WHO, 2002).

Open-Source Software Development: Open-source is a development approach that prescribes to distributed development and review by peers. The goals of open-source development are to produce better quality, higher reliability, more flexibility, lower cost, and eliminate dependencies on vendors (Open_Source_Initiative, 2007). Open-source software provides the benefit of free distribution, access to source code, allowance for modifications and derived works, non discrimination against a particular person or group, not restricted to a particular product or other software, and be technology neutral (Coar, 2006)

Speech Generating Device (SGD): Speech generating devices (SGDs) produce either recorded or synthesized speech based on selected text or images. Speech synthesis systems date back to the late 1950s with the text-to-speech traced back to the late 1960’s. SGDs either allow pre-recorded words or phrases to be created or it can produce a synthesized voice based on a selection of images or text (NIDCD, 2002) .

AAC-RERC: The AAC-RERC (Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center) conducts research or demonstration activities related to AAC technology. It is a collaborative research group dedicated to the development of effective AAC technology (AAC-RERC, 2008).

Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems (AACs): Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems (AACs) help those with communication disorders by supplementing or substituting communication. AACs range from non technical solutions (e.g., paper-based) to highly technical solutions (e.g., synthesized generated speech) (AACI, 2008).

Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): The Picture Exchange Communication System was developed by Lori Frost, M.S., CCC/SLP and Andrew Bondy, Ph.D. at the Delaware Autistic Program in 1994. It is used to teach children with limited functional communication skills to communicate within a social context using applied behavior analysis. Pictures are used to communicate in exchange for the items or task (ICAN, 2000).

Universal Design: The concept of universal design is to design of products to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. It considers a variety of characteristics such as people with differences in abilities, gender, age, socio economic status, etc. (NCSU, 2008)

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