While acceptance for AAC or augmentative and alternative communication is growing, there are still many myths and fears surrounding its methods. These myths cause harm to users, who benefit from communication methods that they can use to comfortably express themselves. Not being able to communicate increases the risk of cognitive, social, emotional and behavioural problems. Here we list some common myths about AAC and the truth behind them.
Myth: AAC will make a nonverbal person lazy or stop them from speaking
Truth: Using AAC will not stop a person from speaking. In children, it often encourages them to begin speaking. It is recommended that AAC be implemented together with speech therapy.
Myth: AAC is a last resort after speech therapy.
Truth: AAC can aid communication when used together with speech therapy. It gives that person more ways to express their feelings and needs.
Myth: Speech should always take priority over AAC
Truth: This is not necessarily the case. The choice to use speech or AAC will depend on the environment. Speech can be used among friends and family, who are used to understanding the PWD, and AAC during other situations. If communication through AAC is excluded or limited by force, this can result in the cognitive, social and behavioral problems mentioned above.
Myth: Young children are not ready for AAC.
Truth: Even babies can communicate through gestures and sign language before learning to speak. This is part of the natural development of language. An AAC system can be developed for very young children based on their abilities and needs, on a case-by-case basis. AAC for young children can mean play-based intervention that helps develop communication skills, including communication with purpose, asking for things, and rejecting things.
Myth: A child with cognitive deficits cannot learn to use AAC
Truth: You cannot accurately predict a child’s ability to learn AAC just based on their mental abilities. AAC methods and systems can be adapted to individual ability levels. This can mean starting out by teaching intentional communication skills and basic functions, or using non-symbolic means of communication. Everyone, including children with severe disabilities, has the right to communicate with skills that are immediately effective, age appropriate, and can give them some control over their environment.
Myth: AAC makes a child look abnormal
Truth: A child is at greater risk of being seen as abnormal or different when they don’t have the means to express themself. It is better to have a child using AAC to communicate than to put them at the risk of having no way to communicate at all. It is also important to make the use of AAC be seen as something normal, and not as a symptom of something bad or wrong that should be avoided.
Myth: AAC is only for completely non-verbal individuals
Truth: AAC can also support those with limited speech – just as how even abled people may prefer to send text messages over making phone calls.
Myth: AAC cannot be used by those who cannot touch a device
Truth: Other methods can replace touch, such as eye tracking (selecting by looking at an option) or switch scanning (pressing a switch or button when an option is highlighted on screen.) Jean-Dominique Bauby, the author of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, dictated his entire book by blinking one eye as someone read through the French alphabet with letters arranged in order of frequency.
AAC is beneficial and connects its users to the world around them. You can find a system that works for you without fear or doubt.
ASHA (2016) Augmentative and Alternative Communication [Accessed: 1 Oct 2019] Available at: https://www.asha.org/PRPSpecificTopic.aspx?folderid=8589942773§ion=Key_Issues
Ivy S. (2019) Assistive technology does not stop speech in individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder [Accessed: 1 Oct 2019] Available at: https://www.thestar.com.my/tech/tech-news/2019/04/08/does-notstop-speech
Rachel R.R. (2019) Untitled Twitter thread [Accessed: 1 Oct 2019] Available at: https://twitter.com/RachelRRomeo/status/1166817555257942016
Tobii Dynavox (2019) Common myths about AAC (Augmentative & Alternative Communication) [Accessed: 1 Oct 2019] Available at: https://www.tobiidynavox.com/learn/what-is-aac/common-questions/
YAACK (2015) Does AAC impede natural speech?—and other fears [Accessed: 1 Oct 2019] Available at: https://communicationmatrix.org/uploads/5346/YAACK%20posting%20AAC%20does%20not%20impeded%20speech.pdf