AAC tools are truly wonderful because they transform the lives of millions. They have given a voice to the voiceless and helped those for whom talking and even breathing unassisted have become challenging, or even impossible. With AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices it’s possible for people who will never talk with their own voice to communicate and be understood by the world around them.
At present, there are roughly 2 million people worldwide with profound expressive language impairments using AAC devices every day. For sufferers of a range of conditions including ALS/ Motor Neurons Disease, cerebral palsy, Rett Syndrome or spinal trauma an AAC device gives them the ability to communicate freely and autonomously. It’s hard to imagine a world without one. For generations who never got to hear Stephen Hawking’s actual speaking voice, the great astrophysicist’s voice will forever be remembered as the one afforded to him by his AAC system.
Yet, while this wonderful technology is transformative to millions of people, those who live with them (and their carers) know that they have their caveats.
A downside of living with an AAC device
The extent to which AAC device users depend on them may be difficult to understand by a person who has full control over their voice and speech. Imagine if your voice box was something that was outside of you, and every time you needed to talk to anyone, you had to have it with you. Not only did you need to have it with you, but you also needed it to be somewhere stable where you could access it easily, despite your profound mobility issues.
It’s a quandary that occupational therapists and speech and language pathologists know only too well. AAC devices need to be readily available 24/7 in ways that facilitate ease of use for users with complex needs.
No chain is stronger than its weakest link and even the best AAC device is rendered useless without the proper mounting, holding it available at the right spot.