Ways to Implement AAC in Daily Routines
March 22, 2020
By Lee Soren, contributor
Although AAC is most commonly used by speech-language pathologists, it has valuable applications for just about every type of allied health practitioner. Learn what AAC is and discover easy ways to implement AAC in your daily routines to improve patient care and enhance treatment outcomes.
What is AAC?
Augmentative and alternative communication, commonly referred to as AAC, refers to the ways we use nonverbal methods to convey thoughts, ideas and emotions to solve routine communication needs. AAC can refer to facial expressions, body language and the use of symbols or the written word. More advanced versions of AAC systems include touch-screen speech-generating devices. Some AAC methods, such as American Sign Language, can be entire languages in their own right.
According to the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication, the main goal of AAC is to provide communication autonomy for individuals who may not be able to communicate through speech. The technology is designed to help an individual say what they need to say, how and when they want to say it.
What are the applications of AAC?
The National Center for Biotechnology Information estimates that 1.3% of Americans cannot reliably use speech to communicate effectively. For these patients, AAC systems can significantly enhance their quality of life and help practitioners provide more effective treatments and therapies.
AAC systems can be helpful for individuals who struggle with speech due to medical or cognitive reasons, including:
- Speech and language disorders
- Throat or mouth surgeries
- Developmental disabilities
- Progressive illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Locked-in syndrome
How can you implement AAC in your daily routine?
When you think about AACs, you may envision a system that translates touch or eye movement into speech. While these high-tech devices undoubtedly help many patients, there are other ways you can incorporate AACs into your daily routine for the diagnosis and treatment of patients. If you think your patients may benefit from the use of AACs, here are a few ideas you can easily implement.
Use magnetic communication boards
Magnetic communication boards are an easy way to help patients communicate basic ideas or thoughts. Make use of children's alphabet magnets, decorative magnets and words and phrases from magnetic poetry sets.
Magnets are simple for children or individuals with motor impairments to handle. They can also be effective in cognitive therapies for individuals who are capable but reluctant to express their thoughts and feelings using speech.
Art is a great way to incorporate AACs into any treatment plan. The sheer variety of mediums means you can offer your patients a multitude of vibrant options, and something is sure to appeal to them, whether that's crayons, markers or watercolors. Plus, because art often feels so much like play and eliminates the need for words completely, it may encourage more open, honest communication.
Tech-savvy healthcare professionals may also want to consider digital art options. Software and apps are available for all platforms and can be run from most digital devices, including tablets and smartphones.
Many symbols are universal, making them a perfect choice for use in AACs. Everyone recognizes a smiling face as being symbolic of happiness or a heart to mean love. You can encourage tight-lipped pediatric patients to indicate their current state of mind by placing an emoji on a mood board, or you can use toys to represent basic concepts and needs such as food, pain or sleep.
Keep a notepad handy
The easiest and least costly way to incorporate AACs into your daily routine is to keep a notepad and pen handy so that nonverbal patients can communicate via writing and sketching. A notepad can also allow therapists to easily convey information and instructions to patients with hearing impairments.
Taking AACs on the road
For travel healthcare professionals, knowledge of AACs and a desire to implement them in your daily practice can make you highly desirable to facilities that work with relevant populations. If you're ready to start your search for an assignment as a travel allied health professional, visit Club Staffing's extensive database of jobs.