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When speaking is difficult, it can help to communicate using a different method. Communication aids or AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) are terms for these methods: they can augment (or support) your existing speech or act as an alternative to speaking.
These aids can be paper-based or technology-based and there is a wide variety on offer. The type of device you will find most useful will depend on the type of communication difficulties you have and other factors such as your ability to point. Most people will use more than one type of AAC for different purposes throughout the day.
There are many types of AAC available, so if you feel that using alternative communication methods would help you can self-refer to speech and language therapy who can assess your communication and help identify what would be most helpful.
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With more people having technology in their pockets, the popularity of AAC on computers and tablets has increased. These apps often have a ‘speech’ function where the selection you type in is read aloud. They will also allow you to save phrases for quick access later. You can also use home assistants (such as Alexa and Siri) to read emails or send texts if you find writing hard.
Voice banking is a relatively new technology: you record yourself reading phrases aloud, and the program uses this to create a synthetic version of your voice. This means that if you need to use a technology-based communication aid in the future, it will speak with a voice that sounds like your own. This kind of preparation is especially useful in conditions such as motor neurone disease (MND) where the speech often becomes impaired.
The simplest and often most effective communication aids are printed onto paper and laminated. They can be single pages or built up into a book, and can be used in any environment. These are usually personalised to your needs. Another simple way is to write down the keywords of what you are saying to help your listener understand.
Here we have two printable charts you can try; something simple like pointing to the first letter of the word or naming the topic can make a big difference to how easy your speech is to understand.
You can use this alphabet chart by spelling out words to help your listener. Here are some tips:
Use this chart in conversations to show what topic you are talking about. When you both know the context of a conversation it is much easier to understand what the other person is saying.