Researchers estimate that up to one half of children with autism have difficulty acquiring speech, which results in their reliance on alternative forms of communication. This statistic poses some major challenges when autistic children are developing and need to communicate their needs and wants, while also connecting with the world. In previous years, families would use a variety of home based methods:
- Letters on paper to spell out request
- Pictures and symbols
- Hand signals and gestures
Let’s just agree, over a period of time this can become extremely frustrating particularly to someone trying to convey their thoughts in relation to the rate they are being produced. Thankfully, emerging technology has created progressive ways to communicate through augmentative and alternative communication to aid autistic children and adults with expressing their thoughts and feelings. So today, I will provide you with a few choices that I find interesting and engaging.
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a method by which individuals communicate through the use of pictures or graphic symbols. PECS is used worldwide and was developed to be used for both children and adults with communication deficits resulting from an autism spectrum disorder. PECS is a product of Pyramid Educational Consultants; “the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS©, Bondy & Frost, 2002) is a unique augmentative/alternative communication training protocol that has received worldwide recognition for focusing on the initiation component of communication.” (Available in electronic version). PECS is also the foundation for many of the newer programs available in the market.
This augmentative communication device is a lightweight, rugged, easy-to-use, powerful and portable communication tool. With QuickTalker, students will be ready to start communicating in minutes. QuickTalker features a modern design – ideal for girls or boys of any age in the classroom – yet rugged enough for everyday use.
Progressive Communicator is easy to learn and use, yet powerful enough to be the only voice output device many users will ever need. Use it as a single-message communicator for beginners and progress to a two-, four-, or eight-message communicator as the user’s needs and abilities change. No need to learn a new device – instead, simply change the keyguard/symbol holder. SuperTalker also offers eight levels so you can record and store as many as 64 messages.
Proloquo2Go™ is an award-winning Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) solution for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch for people who have difficulty speaking or cannot speak at all. Proloquo2Go can be adapted to suit the needs of a wide range of users with varying literacy levels. Featuring natural-sounding voices, speech can be generated by tapping buttons with symbols or typing using the on-screen keyboard with word prediction. Proloquo2Go continues to revolutionize the world of mobile AAC, allowing individuals to communicate at home, in school, at work, in the community, anywhere, anytime.
Now there are many other programs available on the market, I encourage you to explore and determine what works best for your child and their long-term needs.
Venus A. David, M.Ed.