AAC Lending Library
Have you ever seen or heard of an AAC device? Comprehensive Therapy Center is seeking help to build an AAC lending library to provide accessible resources for our clients to communicate. Read on to learn more about what an AAC device is, and what a lending library would mean to our clients!
What is an AAC device, and who uses them?
AAC stands for “Augmentative and Alternative Communication.” It’s easy to break down the acronym, but what does AAC really mean? At a quick glance, an AAC device might appear like a regular iPad or tablet. In reality, it has a very specific function to assist its user by providing accessible means to communicate and interact.
One example of where an AAC device might be helpful is for a child with Autism. People with Autism often, but not always, have challenges in communicating with their neurotypical peers. This can manifest in a few different ways, such as difficulty reading body language or culturally understood social cues. People with Autism might express emotions differently than a neurotypical person. And in some cases, people with Autism can be partially or fully non-speaking.
This is just one scenario where an AAC device could be an effective solution, but these devices can actually be used for anyone with a disparity between their communication needs and their physical or cognitive abilities. This means neurodiverse and neurotypical people alike! Some other cases where an AAC might be used could be someone with an acquired disability, such as a traumatic brain injury, or a congenital disorder like cerebral palsy. But the reality is, there’s no such thing as an “average” need for an AAC device, because the assistance of an AAC will look different for every single user.
No matter how a communication deficit manifests, an AAC device offers a solution by creating alternative or augmentative means of communication for partially or fully non-speaking people. Although it may look like a regular tablet, it has special programming that makes it function for a very specific purpose. Instead of apps, the screen of an AAC device is loaded with icons to describe different nouns, verbs, adjectives, and more. The user can select from these icons, constructing a sentence one button at a time. Or, even preprogrammed sentences, like “Hi, my name is Jayden!”
Why are AAC devices important?
Let’s revisit the example from before, a child with Autism who is partially or fully non-speaking. While the cause of Autism is unknown, the conversation around this diagnosis is changing. One outdated misconception is that people with Autism are less intelligent, but this simply isn’t the case. “Non-speaking” means just that— non-speaking. It doesn’t mean non-thinking, non-feeling, non-hearing, or non-communicative. The key is to find the right tools to communicate when words don’t come easily. Rather than trying to cure or treat Autism, it’s becoming more important than ever to accept and accommodate the ways that people with Autism express themselves.
That same logic can be applied for any person who finds that an AAC device improves their ability to communicate. By providing the user with different means to interact with the world around them, an AAC can be a critical tool for the user to feel heard and understood— and ultimately, positively shifting our cultural perception of what it means to be non-speaking.
For those who are partially non-speaking, an AAC device can bridge the gap at times when verbal communication challenges arise. For people who are fully non-speaking, these devices provide dependable means of communication for those who might not otherwise have it. Among many important functions, AAC devices allow non-speaking people to ask for what they want and need, develop meaningful relationships with the people around them, and share their opinions, ideas, and feelings.
In the work we do at our clinic, our therapists have watched many of our clients thrive after being introduced to AAC devices. Currently, we have the means to use these devices in-clinic and in-session with our therapists. But what happens after the client leaves our office?
One major challenge we’ve identified is that this technology is cost-prohibitive for many of our CTC families. It can also take insurance companies a long time to approve or reimburse families for the funds for a device. Unfortunately, this means that many of our clients don’t always have reliable and accessible means for communication at home.
To address this, CTC wants to build an AAC device lending library for our families. This would allow us the opportunity to provide our clients with a reliable way to communicate until they can get a more permanent device. But as a small non-profit, we need your help! We are asking for donations from our community to fund this library. Every contribution, big or small, helps bring us closer to our goal and creates a lasting impact on our clients as they grow and develop.