As a parent of a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), navigating the world when your child is experiencing neurodiversity can feel overwhelming. Parents and autism providers recognize that autism has many layers requiring specialized attention and intervention from both parents and providers. For many on the spectrum, communication is a challenge that can hinder daily life in many ways.
If you’re a parent with a child on the spectrum or have a neurodivergent loved one, you may have noted they are nonspeaking or struggle using words. Language difficulties and communication issues are prevalent concerns for many families with autism. From figuring out which tools are most effective to helping develop meaningful communication strategies, raising a child on the spectrum often requires hard work and patience, especially if they face communication challenges. Still, it is usually a gratifying and rewarding experience for many.
Fortunately, several effective options, such as AAC devices, exist to support better communication. These can be assistive technology specifically supporting communication in neurodivergent individuals, regardless of their speech or ability. AAC devices can take many forms, from voice output communication aids on an iPad to no-tech options like picture cards and gestures. Each device or tool has its strengths and weaknesses in helping support a person’s unique communication needs, so it’s essential to consider many variables while selecting your instrument.
In this blog post by ABA Centers of America, we’ll guide you through the basics of selecting an AAC device for your loved one with autism by outlining what criteria to consider when evaluating potential solutions to the communication obstacles many with autism experience.
Whether it’s finding a solution that fits your circumstances or the personal needs of your family member with autism, there is an option out there that’s just right for them! All it takes is patience to explore and learn what works best. Read on to learn more about the benefits of including an AAC device in your child or teenager’s life.
For more information about ABA Centers of America, click here.
What Is an AAC Device?
Effectively communicating is a vital part of everyday life that is very easy to take for granted. For children with autism, however, it can pose a significant challenge. Limited verbal communication skills make it difficult for many children with autism to express themselves adequately or understand what others are saying. Communication difficulties can lead to the demonstration of problematic and complex behaviors that sometimes attract negative attention, limit participation, or cause harm. Fortunately, AAC devices offer a solution to improve communication and help bridge the gap for many on the spectrum.
AAC devices can provide people with speech impairments or delays with a voice they didn’t have before. These devices or tools can vastly improve the quality of life of the individual with autism and their caregivers, often leading to more autonomy and participation. An AAC device stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication device. It is a communication tool specifically designed for individuals unable to communicate verbally.
Many consider an AAC device a technological marvel that enables people with autism to express themselves through symbols, pictures, and synthesized speech. Still, it doesn’t have to be a digital device. It can also be a tangible picture card or board. AAC devices can be essential for improving non-verbal or limited verbal communication. These devices allow individuals with autism to share their needs, thoughts, and feelings with those around them more seamlessly.
What Types of AAC Devices Are Available to Support Autism?
There are several AAC options available for families with autism to choose from, depending on the needs and lifestyle of the individual. In most cases, AAC devices are:
Low Tech: This tech level requires the most minor financial invention and minimal training. It emphasizes requests and social exchanges, i.e., books, communication boards, or a picture exchange system.
Mid-Tech: At this level, the device will generate speech. More training, customization, and fixed displays are necessary in many cases. i.e., voice output communication aids (VOCA), Quick Talker, Go Talk.
High Tech: These level devices generate speech and have dynamic displays and customizations. i.e., Tablet, iPad, Dynavox.
Utilizing AAC Devices for Autism
In most cases, an AAC device works by either touching the screen or pressing buttons to choose from a pre-programmed set of phrases or symbols, making it possible for non-verbal individuals to interact. In other cases, the individual may hand over a picture of their need. Here are some examples of AAC devices in practice.
- For a potty break, a child may utilize their AAC device to communicate or display an image or a washroom to their educator.
- In a group setting, an individual may use their AAC device to improve participation in a lesson or request extra time. They can present their iPad, which generates the speech relaying their desire.
With the help of an AAC device, people who struggle with expressing their thoughts and emotions can now break through their communication barriers. By improving communication, AAC devices help children with autism interact more successfully with others and navigate life more easily.
Understanding the Benefits of AAC Devices for Autism
The benefits of AAC devices for autism go beyond communication, as they also enhance social interaction skills, academic experiences, and overall quality of life. AAC devices offer a unique solution to the challenges faced by people with autism in communication and have become an indispensable tool in the education and therapy landscape.
What Should You Consider When Selecting Your AAC Device?
The reality is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to communication barriers with autism. Each person’s needs are unique, and what works well for one individual may not necessarily work for another. Finding a suitable AAC device takes time and patience. Still, with the proper guidance and support, it’s more than possible to identify the best device for your loved one to help them flourish.
There are several factors to consider when identifying the perfect AAC device for a particular individual, such as their cognitive abilities, motor skills, language skills, and natural communication strengths. By evaluating these features, you can ensure that each person with autism has an AAC device that addresses their unique obstacles and helps them reach their full potential.
Lastly, parents and providers should ensure the device is user-friendly and can support the goals of the ABA therapy or other essential autism services the individual may receive. Finding a suitable device improves social interaction and maximizes progress for individuals with autism.
AAC Devices and ABA Therapy
As a parent, it can be tricky navigating how to support your neurodivergent children best, especially when assessing their needs and language abilities. For those with autism, in particular, ABA therapy is often recommended to help with communication and social skills. Most health insurance is mandated to cover ABA therapy as it is considered a medical necessity for many on the spectrum.
Taking the time to listen to your child, working with their ABA providers, and exploring different forms of communication can all play a role in helping your child with autism thrive. Do your best to gauge their language level and discuss it with their treatment team. Additionally, attending parent training through your child’s ABA therapy plan can be immensely helpful in assessing and addressing your child’s language needs.
Working with an Experienced Speech-Language Pathologist and BCBA to Ensure Successful Implementation
Working with an experienced speech-language pathologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) can make all the difference in successfully implementing communication strategies for individuals with autism. For those who depend on AAC devices, it’s critical to have a team that can ensure the device is effective and accurate.
Communication Improves Life with Autism
In conclusion, AAC devices can be essential tools for improving communication and language development among individuals with autism. Understanding these device’s benefits and finding the most suitable fit for your child’s needs and abilities is essential. Consider complexity, durability, portability/transportability, and cost when looking at possible devices. Working alongside an experienced speech-language pathologist and BCBA is also beneficial to ensure the successful implementation of devices.
Working towards better communication and ensuring healthy language development is something every parent of a neurodivergent child should strive for, and an AAC device could be just the tool needed for success in many cases!
More About ABA Centers of America
ABA Centers of America values communication in children and teenagers with autism. Their voices matter so much. Our expert ABA team understands that communication strategies and the implementation of valuable tools can dramatically improve your child’s developmental gains and quality of life. Positive change is possible, and life on the spectrum doesn’t have to be full of limitations or despair.
It’s remarkable how technology has the power to impact our lives in so many ways!