Alternative communication: what is it and how to start? July, 2024

Alternative communication encompasses a broad field of study and techniques aimed at devising methods that enable individuals with disabilities to communicate effectively. It is particularly beneficial for those lacking functional speech or writing skills or experiencing a discrepancy between their spoken and written communication abilities. But how does one begin with alternative communication?

The Role of Alternative Communication in Inclusive Practices 2024

Communication is foundational to social interactions and plays a crucial role in shaping our sense of belonging, identity formation, and relationships with the world around us. Recognizing the importance of meeting the communication needs of people with disabilities is crucial for fostering an inclusive society. This realization gave rise to the field of Alternative Communication, derived from the broader term Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC), also known as Supplementary and Alternative Communication (SAC) or Amplified and Alternative Communication (AAC).

The primary aim of Alternative Communication is to integrate individuals with disabilities into society more fully. Our experience since 2019 has shown that Alternative Communication is an invaluable tool, especially for patients who face significant challenges in speech or are unable to verbalize. For patients working on speech development, we use Alternative Communication as an auxiliary tool to aid in speech enhancement. Conversely, for non-verbal patients, it serves as the primary mode of communication.

Initiating Alternative Communication

The process begins by leveraging the individual's own modes of expression through alternative channels such as gestures, sounds, and facial and body expressions to articulate desires, needs, opinions, and stances.

Additionally, the use of external aids plays a pivotal role. This includes communication cards, boards, alphabet grids, as well as photos, images, and assistive technologies like Expressia, which facilitate communication.

Personalizing care to start alternative communication involves an initial comprehensive assessment with the patient's family, followed by tailored interventions based on each patient’s specific needs. Each individual’s method of introducing Alternative Communication is unique and highly customized. For instance, the approach for a patient with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) differs significantly from that for someone with cerebral palsy.

In cases involving wheelchair users, symbols are typically more static, whereas for those with visual impairments, greater contrast in communication tools is required. For individuals with ASD, the communication approach is designed to be quicker and more direct. After identifying these needs, the next step involves selecting appropriate assistive technology and setting up activities on communication boards, with Expressia often being the software of choice due to its comprehensiveness and ease of use.

Starting with what truly motivates the individual and piques their interest is crucial. Employing visual schedules, engaging with games, and providing symbols for all vocabulary and home activities are effective strategies for incorporating Alternative Communication into daily routines.

alternative communication
alternative communication

How Expressia Contributes

Developed by professionals in rehabilitation and inclusive education, Expressia is engineered to facilitate the creation of alternative communication boards and interactive activities, incorporating photographs, images, sounds, music, and personalized voices.

The software is designed for easy access by both professionals and users, significantly enhancing service delivery to patients with disabilities. Expressia’s customizable features allow seamless integration with the collaborative efforts of the entire care team, including speech therapists, family members, therapists, and educators. Technologies like Expressia are transformative, significantly easing the introduction of Alternative Communication and revolutionizing the way care is delivered.

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