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AAC in Aphasia - What Does & Doesn't Work?

Updated: Jan 30, 2021

What is AAC?

People often think of the term Augmentative and Alternative Communication as referring to a high-tech device that talks for the person with communication difficulty but that’s not quite right. For sure, high-tech devices are types of AAC but the term really refers to any strategy, technique or device (low or high-tech) that can be used maximise the person’s communication skills.

What types of AAC are designed for aphasia?

It is important to note that many high-tech AAC apps and devices were not made with aphasia in mind. Instead they were made for individuals with physical or motor speech impairments rather than a language impairment. Such apps and devices often rely on strong categorisation skills and good grammar and syntax, which are usually impaired in aphasia.

Having impaired categorisation skills, grammar and syntax makes it immediately much harder to navigate and use such apps or devices.  While you may know that an apple is a fruit and that you need to go into the ‘Food & Drink’ category and then the ‘Fruit’ subcategory to find it, that will not be at all obvious to many people with aphasia. Furthermore the understanding of symbols can be difficulty for individuals with aphasia as it not always apparent what word or concept is being represented.

Some apps and devices have been made for people with aphasia. Visual scene display apps, navigation rings, apps with personalisation and stored messages are all examples of AAC with aphasia in mind.  

Scene Speak is a visual scene display app

Visual Scene Display 

Visual Scene Display apps allow you to add personal photos and hotspots.  A hotspot is essentially “sound area”  that can play a recorded messaged when selected and be used as a means of communication. A photo can have multiple “hotspots” that can be edited to add sound or written text labels. Scene Speak is one example.

Navigation Rings

A navigation ring book is essentially a ring-binder communication book with tabs to facilitate navigation. People find aphasia often find it much easier to find the page they need when this type of design is used.

Simple Grid-Based & Story-Telling Apps

Simple grid-based apps can be fully personalised for use as a talking photo album to support communication. Yes, they do have category-based grid but as the layout is simple and there are no sub-categories they are relatively easy for the person with aphasia to navigate. Click n’ Talk  is one example.

Pictello allows you to make albums to tell a story. You can use the included text to speech voices, or make your own recordings. It could be used for making a life book or for helping the person with aphasia to talk about important life events.

All About Me also allows you to make a photo book album to which you can add personal photos, text and audio-recordings. The symbols on the homepage do look somewhat childish but they can be replaced by your own cover