Technology Gives a Voice to Children with Impaired Language Skills
“I love you.”
These are all simple phrases that help us connect with the outside world. But, what if you could not speak to communicate your needs or express yourself? Technology can literally give you a voice.
Low-tech augmentative and alternative communication (ACC) systems are basic communication systems that are easy to program and modify and require little to no source of power. These types of devices are good starting points for children who are just entering into the world of AAC and can often help give a voice to children with impaired speech and language skills. Some examples of low- and mid-tech AAC devices that we often use with children at Good Shepherd Pediatrics include:
- Basic switches are used for both cause/effect skill building and as a means of basic communication.
- Activation of the switch allows children to activate toys or make basic requests (i.e., “more,” “all done,” “help”, “open”).
- Children can activate switches using various body parts and/or methods (like tilting their head) and can be moved and/or mounted to accommodate proper access points based on their individual needs.
- Switches come in a variety of sizes, shapes and textures.
- Switches can also be used to activate various communication devices, like the Fl4sh (described below).
- Fl4sh is a low-tech picture communication device.
- This device allows children to activate one of four buttons, which play pre-recorded messages.
- Buttons can be labeled using various methods (real pictures, drawings or words).
- The device can be activated by direct selection, with one or two switches, or by connecting one switch for each message location.
- In addition to the direct selection method, children also can activate the device via scanning, which allows a child to select a message by activating the device when their desired choice is highlighted.
- Scanning options are accessed by the touch of a button, with your choice of message, prompt or beep feedback.
- This device is good for beginning communicators.
- LOGAN ProxTalker is a mid-tech moveable picture communication device which retrieves specific vocabulary stored on sound tags (small plastic squares) to produce words.
- Children choose a specific picture, place it on the device and press to hear pre-recorded messages of various lengths and complexities.
- Each sound tag can be labeled using a wide range of symbols depending on specific patient need and level of functioning (i.e., photos, words or animated drawings).
- The device can be used to request individual items or various language concepts (i.e., “more,” “all done,” “help”, “milk”, “ball”).
- It can also help promote language development through use of full sentences (i.e. “I want chocolate milk.”).
Many children who can’t speak benefit from the use of these low- and mid-tech devices. As some children outgrow the devices’ capabilities, they move on to more high-tech AAC devices that allow for further language development across various communication settings throughout daily life.