Low-tech & high-tech AAC

Augmentative and Alternative Communication can be described in different ways. Understanding the different descriptions, including low-tech & high-tech AAC, will help you learn about the types of systems available, as well as help guide your decision-making as to which will be the best fit.

Types of AAC

Aided systems: Use external products and materials to get across a message. These may include AAC systems such as core word boards, communication books or speech generating devices.
Unaided systems: Use the skills that are available to that person and do not need additional material or equipment. These could comprise body language, sign language, spoken language or facial expression.

A different combination is usually used for different purposes. A person will often use both aided and unaided systems regularly.

Low-tech & high-tech AAC characteristics

Low-Tech: Common examples of low-tech systems include picture exchanging, printed word boards, communication books & sign language. Also, recorded speech devices (digital) can fall into this category if battery-powered with simple short messages.

High-Tech: These systems rely on power & re-chargeable battery packs as they generally use lighted dynamic displays & synthesised voices. They run software vocabularies, may have multiple voices, and can be customised. Operating systems can be Windows, Android or iOS.

For academic readings on this topic:

Van der Meer, L., Didden, R., Sutherland, D., O’Reilly, M. F., Lancioni, G. E., & Sigafoos, J. (2012). Comparing three augmentative and alternative communication modes for children with developmental disabilities. Journal of Developmental and Physical Disabilities24(5), 451-468.

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