Communication aids help people to communicate with those around them and span a variety of different devices. Some use sophisticated and advanced hardware or software, but many are a simple chart, alphabet sheets or flash card-based. While they may not take advantage of the latest technology, these aids can be very powerful and are a great starting point for families who may not be eligible for an electronic device, or who need a stepping-stone before purchasing one. Most people who are nonverbal or who have incoherent speech rely on a variety of communication aids and may have specific devices for specific circumstances.
Symbol Based Charts
There is a range of books, charts and grids available to enable communication by the user pointing or looking at the pictures or symbols to form sentences, make requests or ask questions. These communication aids can be bought or even tailor-made to suit the individual’s vocabulary level. As they are a printed media, they do not require batteries and so can be used anywhere and there is no danger of them running out of power or breaking when outside of the home! If you are interested in obtaining a symbol-based chart, there are many free resources available online and while users will still need to learn what the symbols mean, there is no need for spelling or sentence formation so they are suitable for even very young children.
Alphabet charts are a similar communication aid but in place of images they have letters, so they are better suited to those who can already spell. They can be customised in a variety of ways, such as putting an image underneath each letter to help support pronunciation and can be organised in either AZ or QWERTY formats. These communication aids are also page based, so can be easily transported and used easily outside of the home.
Simple Voice Output Communication Aids or VOCA’s consist of small battery-powered devices with built-in microphones for recording messages. They are also known as light tech communication aids and are a good introduction to electronic communication for users who are inexperienced with these devices. Simple VOCA’s store words or phrases in ‘layers’ which allows users to form sentences, but they can be restrictive in the amount of vocabulary they can store. As they rely on pre-recorded speech, they are best suited to people who are not able to spell what it is they want to say. They can run from a single switch or a small grid and offer many ways of making selections if the user has difficulty pressing buttons.
Complex Voice Output Communication Aids are the most advanced form of electronic communication aids that rely on synthesised speech to relay messages. Some of these devices can also store speech as well as connect to the internet, send text messages and control the environment of the user. They tend to be based around computer technology and have touchscreens of varying sizes and are versatile to use, operating on both symbol-based grids and word-based grids.