Methods of Access and Communicating with AAC Users

Methods of access

For some young people with physical difficulties, the method by which they access technology and their communication aid will be explored so that they are able to navigate around the screen on their device and make selections as effectively, swiftly and accurately as possible.

Some pupils will be able to point with their finger, fist or toe to access their VOCA. Controlling a pointer on the screen via a mouse or a trackerball is another way of directly controlling the device. Similarly those who are able to use a keyboard/adapted keyboard (with keyguard, more widely spaced keys etc) can communicate using such. Head pointers are used by pupils with better head than limb control, the infrared dot or lightbeam from the head pointer can control some communication aids. There are developments currently with VOCAs being produced that respond to accurate eye pointing too.

For those who have no direct method of access due to physical limitations there are a number of switches that can control the device, e.g. deliver a single message or scan a more complex device to allow the pupil to have access to the vocabulary on there. The pupil can have one or more switches, positioned anywhere where they can control them with minimal effort, e.g. head, foot, knee, hand. The timing of pressing/ releasing the switch and the pressure required can be altered and the pupil is likely to need to practise to perfect this.

Communicating with someone who uses AAC

As an AAC user communicates much more slowly than someone speaking naturally and the listener needs to either read/interpret what the person is pointing to or listen carefully to a synthesised voice; conversing with someone using AAC requires you to be attentive to ‘tune in’. By looking at your conversational partner you are likely to pick up on the non verbal messages that accompany their communication aid use.

When chatting with an AAC user you need to have time and wait for responses, however long this may be, instead of being tempted to fill the gaps/silences.

It is always best not to guess or anticipate what he pupil using AAC wants to say, they need opportunities to initiate conversations and choose the topic, rather than just being led by or responding to others. Where the pupil communicates via keywords and requires adults to fill in the rest of the information, it is fine to do this once they have indicated that they have finished saying their bit, however it is vital that you have a method to check that you have interpreted what they were saying accurately.

Pupils using AAC find it easiest when they are only asked one question to respond to at a time; and the style of question you ask, e.g. closed ‘did you watch TV last night’ or open ‘what did you do last night?’ will depend on the vocabulary available on their device and their competence in using it. Asking genuine questions, not just ones you already know the answer to, can also motivate the pupil.

It is really important for pupils using AAC to get clear feedback from their listener, and if their message is not clear they need to know what you need further clarification on and ideas on how to make themselves understood.

Did you find what you were looking for?

Please give us your name, email address and any comments you have.

Last updated: 28 October 2015

Bookmark with:

What are these?