Hopebridge Speech Pathologist Shares How AAC Devices Enhance Communication and Addresses AAC Misconceptions

Indianapolis, Dec. 27, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Thousands of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have discovered new ways to express themselves at Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers, with a little – and sometimes a lot of – help from augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices.

As one of the largest pediatric autism therapy providers in the nation, Hopebridge uses a range of tools and strategies to help children communicate. Even if they do not yet speak vocally, clinicians work with children and their families to discover the method of communication that works best for them.

“AAC gives these kids with autism and other developmental delays more freedom,” said Hopebridge Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP) Hayley Brodt. “AAC devices enable the children and adults who use them the ability to express themselves, whether that’s saying what they want, what they don’t like, or telling someone ‘no’ or ‘I’m mad.’ They can use it for their wants and needs, but it’s so much more than that. They can share their thoughts, ideas and feelings. It gives them power over themselves.”

AAC systems help individuals increase their communication by adding to their current ability or serving as a different form of communication than speech. There is a broad range of AAC devices, from no-tech and low-tech to high-tech. It can be anything from a gesture, to a piece of paper with a word or picture on it, to a digital tablet programmed to serve as a voice.

It’s common to see core boards, which are laminated pieces of paper that include core vocabulary, used as AAC throughout Hopebridge centers. The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is another low-tech system that is commonly used. High-tech options include digital apps like Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP) Words for Life, which can be used on various tablets.

At Hopebridge, SLPs work with each child to see what works best for them and their individual needs. Core boards can be used immediately, even for someone waiting to use a high-tech device. The goal is for whatever patients use to feel effortless and natural, much like using vocal speech and keyboards.

There are many benefits to using AAC, but it is often misunderstood. Here are some common AAC misconceptions and concerns:

  • Myth #1: AAC devices are only for nonverbal children.
    AAC is not limited to non-speakers. In many instances, providing a speaking child with a core board as a supplemental tool enables them to talk even more. It gives them the visual representation to express what they want and their ideas. Even if a child is verbal, maybe they cannot find the words or can be effortful to do so. Providing a visual of emotions can help them explain that they are sad, overwhelmed or excited.
  • Myth #2: Kids will not learn to speak if they use a device.
    Research shows AAC will not stop a child from speaking, nor will it slow down language. Oppositely, if there is any change in verbal language development, it typically increases or helps them develop speech faster than they would have without the use of AAC.
  • Myth #3: Using an AAC device is too difficult.
    AAC can be intimidating at first glance, but the learning process is similar to how an infant may come to speak; they are not expected to begin talking from birth. It takes time and patience for many. Hopebridge recommends parents become comfortable with exploring the tools, as mistakes will not alter their child’s learning. Hopebridge also offers parent training to help families navigate the process.
  • Myth #4: Once a child uses AAC, they will need to use it forever.
    When a child does start talking, they do not need to keep the device unless they find it helpful in certain situations. Hopebridge’s interdisciplinary 360 Care program enables speech therapists to remain in constant communication with Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA), so if they feel another system might work better for one of their patients, they can collaborate with them and families to make adjustments.

“These devices are life-changing. For kids who do not yet use their voices to speak, having visual support to express themselves can be so beneficial. It helps teach consent, as kids can now say when they don’t want something, or they can tell a teacher or parent if something happens at school that upsets them,” said Brodt.

While the act of pointing to a picture or tapping a button on a tablet may seem simple to some, the results bring joy and peace to many children and families. Parents are excited when their child begins to use it because they are then able to say things like, “eat,” “go,” and “I feel,” as well as more complex sentences like, “I don’t want to be here, let’s go.”

Hopebridge aims to help children find their voice in whatever way suits them. AAC is just one of the tools within the therapy network’s repertoire, which includes multidisciplinary services such as speech therapy, ABA therapy, occupational therapy and feeding therapy, as well as diagnostic evaluations for autism.

For more information about ASD and the center-based and in-home service options Hopebridge offers to support the autism community, visit hopebridge.com. To schedule a diagnostic assessment or therapy evaluation at one of Hopebridge’s more than 100 center locations around the country, fill out the form at hopebridge.com/contact.  


About Hopebridge

Hopebridge was founded in 2005 to serve the growing need for autism treatment services and to improve the lives of affected children and families. Hopebridge is committed to providing personalized outpatient ABA, occupational, speech and feeding therapies for children touched by autism spectrum disorder and behavioral, physical, social, communication and sensory challenges. Hopebridge provides a trusted place where they can receive the care, support and hope they deserve.

More than a decade later, Hopebridge continues to open state-of-the-art autism therapy centers in new communities to reach patients and families who need services. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Hopebridge operates over 100 centers in the following twelve states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Ohio and Tennessee.

  • Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers

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