Recent Advances in Augmentative and Alternative Communication: The Advantages and Challenges of Technology Applications for Communicative Purposes

Recent Advances in Augmentative and Alternative Communication: The Advantages and Challenges of Technology Applications for Communicative Purposes

Toby B. Mehl-Schneider (City University of New York, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0034-6.ch097


With the increased development of mobile technologies, such as smartphones and tablets (i.e. iPhone, iPad), the field of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) has changed rapidly over the last few years. Recent advances in technology have introduced applications (apps) for AAC purposes. These novel technologies could provide numerous benefits to individuals with complex communication needs. Nevertheless, introducing mobile technology apps is not without risk. Since these apps can be purchased and retrieved with relative ease, AAC assessments and collaborative evaluations have been circumvented in favor of the “quick fix”-simply ordering a random app for a potential user, without fully assessing the individual's needs and abilities. There is a paucity of research pertaining to mobile technology use in AAC. Therapists, parents and developers of AAC applications must work collaboratively to expand the research pertaining to the assessment and treatment of children who utilize AAC mobile technologies for communication purposes.
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Augmentative And Alternative Communication: An Overview

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) refers to any and all assisting communicative functions which 'augment' or serve as 'alternatives' for verbal vocalizations. In addition to verbal speech, these can include any vocalizations, gestures, facial expressions or AAC devices. Furthermore, AAC systems can include light tech tools, such as an alphabet board or communication book (McBride, 2011).

AAC systems are utilized by individuals who require adaptive support for expressive communication, such as reading and writing. People from all age groups, socioeconomic groups, races and religions use AAC as a means to communicate expressively. Children and adults alike who require assistance with expressive communication due to both congenital and acquired language impairments will use AAC systems to communicate with their family and peers. Individuals with congenital impairments such as cerebral palsy, autism, mental retardation and developmental apraxia of speech, use AAC systems as a form of expressive communication which allows them to partake in daily social interactions. These children may require use of AAC devices due to significant communicative needs in their social, family, educational and community environments (Light & McNaughton, 2012). Individuals with acquired impairments which result in profound communication difficulties, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis (MS) and spinal cord injury, often require some form of AAC for expressive output purposes (Beukelman & Mirenda, 1998).

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