Device Suitability

Device Suitability

No AAC device is limited to any one person, diagnosis or condition. AAC devices are for anyone who wants to benefit from improving their expressive and receptive language and for anyone who wants to more fully participate in social communicative environments.

Each individual using an AAC system is ultimately going to decide what they like to communicate with and this needs to be respected at all times. However, it is possible to help guide the assessment and selection process to find an

AAC system that best fits that individual.

Device suitability will come down to a number of factors, some of which being:

  • Individual preference and motivation
  • Fine and gross motor skills
  • Cognitive abilities
  • Language skills

The actual device itself is of less importance than the vocabulary that is used within the device. Having suitable words already programmed is important, though consideration must be given to navigational pathways & immediacy of selection.

There is far more at stake than whether a device merely contains sufficient vocabulary to “grow with a child during language development”. More importantly, does the device in question have the capacity to deliver all the functions of communication in a spontaneous, novel manner through the design & structure of its language software?

Correct device selection is, of course, essential when helping an individual to physically access the hardware itself. Is the intended device fully-accessible in AAC terms: touch, switch, joystick, head-pointing, & eye-gaze? Are the fine adjustment settings present in the software?

Screen-size is a major factor in aligning with a prospective user’s physical dexterity and or visual capacity.

Device-weight, although an understandable concern for young ambulant users, is sometimes exaggerated in terms of usefulness within the whole package of suitability.

Battery-life is another factor that has to be thought of as one component of a person’s AAC- lifestyle. More battery power often results in more weight due to a larger battery. So, there often exists pressure to compromise on a range of inputs that might inevitably conflict.

Independence is a valid goal for many living with a disability. Will the device promote such an aspiration in language terms & can it be programmed & re-charged by its AAC user?

Lifestyle really is a key ingredient since a user might need to rely upon a device that can handle rough treatment or demanding environments like the beach, dusty farmland or wet weather. A rugged AAC device might be necessary.

What technical supports are possible in the home, at school or at a respite centre? These will need to realistically cope with the complexity of various settings & maintenance.

A common term that is used within the AAC community for all this is “feature matching”, that is, identifying which elements of a system will best suit an individual. Some feature matching forms that can help guide your decision making can be found on the bottom of this page in a downloadable link. You will also find a video that will discuss this in more detail.

For further reading regarding this topic: 

Gosnell, J., Costello, J., & Shane, H. (2011). There isn’t always an app for that. Perspectives on augmentative and alternative communication20(1), 7-8.

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