Assistive Technology

Assistive technology (AT) devices are any type of device that are used to enhance the functional performance that is impaired of an individual. These devices can be anything that is made or bought to improve function. They can be as simple as a homemade slant board to improve a child’s writing and as high tech as a computer that will answer your phone and turn the lights on.

Some of the applications of assistive technology are:

  • Access
  • Assistive Listening
  • Augmentative/Alternative Communication (ACC)
  • Computer-Based Instruction
  • Environmental Control
  • Mobility
  • Positioning
  • Self Care
  • Social Interaction and Recreation
  • Visual Aids

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) refers to ways (other than speech) that are used to send a message from one person to another. We all use augmentative communication techniques, such as facial expressions, gestures, and writing, as part of our daily lives. In difficult listening situations (noisy rooms, for example), we tend to augment our words with even more gestures and exaggerated facial expressions.

Who needs AAC therapy?

People with severe speech or language problems must rely quite heavily on standard techniques as well as on special augmentative techniques that have been specifically developed for them. Some of these techniques involve the use of specialized gestures, sign language, or low and high tech speech output devices. Other techniques use communication aids, such as charts and language boards. On aids such as these, objects may be represented by pictures, drawings, letters, words, sentences, special symbols, or any combination thereof.

Electronic devices are available that can speak in response to entries on a keyboard or other methods of input. Input can come from any number of different switches that are controlled with motions as simple as a push of a button, a puff of air, or the wrinkle of an eyebrow. The possibilities increase virtually every day! Augmentative communication users don’t stop using speech! When speech is used with standard and special augmentative communication, not only does communication increase, but so do social interactions, school performance, feelings of self-worth, and job opportunities.

Some examples of AAC devices

  • Eye gaze boards
  • Sign Language
  • Picture Exchange Communication System ( PECS)
  • Big Mack – Single Switch communication device
  • Cheap Talk
  • IntelliKeys
  • Macaw
  • DynaVox, DynaMyte, DynaMo

Adapted from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.

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