What Are the Best AAC Devices?

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My friend, Lisa, has a daughter with Down Syndrome. When Maya was two, Lisa took Maya to see a speech-language pathologist (SLP) to help her communicate. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices help people with speech or language impairments communicate. After seeing the SLP, Maya was introduced to picture boards, allowing her to make a few basic choices and requests. As she grew, Maya learned to use more comprehensive picture boards and speech-generating technology to interact accurately and meaningfully with the world around her. AAC devices aren’t only for kids who cannot speak but can be helpful for kids who have challenges with speech, too. These tools range from simple to complex, offering a unique solution to various communication needs. I’ve made it my mission to help families and caregivers like you find the ultimate AAC device to help unlock your child’s communication potential.

Read More: How to Communicate with a Nonverbal Autistic Child

What is AAC?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. But, it encompasses all the ways a person can communicate outside of typical speech. AAC empowers kids and adults with speech impairments to have their voices heard.

Types of AAC

There are two primary types of AAC:

  • Unaided AAC: Unaided AAC doesn’t require any external tools. This can include Gesture, Sign language (like American Sign Language – ASL) and Facial expressions
  • Aided AAC: Aided AAC involves using tools and devices, such as Picture boards and communication books, Speech-generating devices (SGDs), AAC apps on tablets and smartphones

Who Can Benefit from AAC Devices?

AAC devices can help anyone who has difficulty communicating through speech. This can include kids with:

  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD)
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Down syndrome
  • Speech delays
  • Apraxia of speech
  • Traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
aac devices. a girl is using an aac device to communicate with others.
Read more: How Do I Teach My Child to Use an AAC Talker?

Benefits of AAC Devices

AAC devices provide a wealth of benefits for kids with communication challenges. Here are a few of the most important advantages:

  • Increased communication and independence: AAC allows kids to express their needs, wants, and feelings, reducing frustration and increasing their sense of control.
  • Improved social interaction: When kids communicate more effectively, they can build stronger relationships with family, friends, and peers.
  • Enhanced learning and development: AAC devices can help kids participate in learning activities and develop cognitive skills.
  • Boosted self-esteem and confidence: The ability to communicate successfully can profoundly impact a child’s self-image.

Best AAC Devices to Consider

With such a wide variety of AAC devices on the market, picking the right one for your child can feel overwhelming. Let’s break down some popular options to get you started:

1. Goally’s AAC

If you’re looking for an AAC device that has the easiest setup and can get kids communicating the fastest, Goally’s AAC tablet uses language learning strategies that are proven to help children develop language and independence skills. One of the greatest benefits is that it’s completely customizable down to the audio cues. Using visual modeling and a simple user interface, Word Lab is a great option for learning at home and on the go.

A testimonial about Goally being the best tablet for her daughter working on life skills

2. Lightwriter SL50

The Lightwriter is one of the best text-to-speech aids on the market at the moment, with intuitive and customizable features. It has adjustable keyboard sensitivity, word prediction, and dual screens with forward-facing speakers that allow others to read what someone’s written and hear it clearly through the device. It works via Bluetooth to send text messages and make calls, which makes it a great device for more than just face-to-face interactions.

3. LoganTech ProxTalker 

For those who would prefer not to type or are unable to type, the ProxTalker is a great option. It uses symbols and picture tags embedded with radio frequency identification chips to read the words on the card aloud. It also has a built-in microphone and a minimum of 6 months of battery life provided by four Duracell C batteries. 

aac devices. a boy is using an aac device to communicate at home with his family.
Read More: What Are the Types of AAC?

4. GoTalk 20+ 

GoTalk is one of the simplest AAC devices available and can store up to 100 pre-recorded messages. There are also core buttons for common words or phrases. However, this runs on two AA batteries, so the battery life won’t be as long as others.

5. MegaBee Assisted Communication and Writing Tablet

This communication tablet operates as an eye-pointing communication tool rather than having buttons. It has dual screens that fit up to 20 characters so the message is visible to users as it’s typed. It also has Bluetooth connectivity so it can operate on a larger display. 

Factors to Consider When Choosing an AAC Device

Selecting a suitable AAC device is a very personalized journey. Work closely with your child’s SLP to consider these essential factors:

  • Your child’s age and developmental level: Match the device’s complexity to where your child is.
  • Your child’s communication needs: Does your child need to express basic wants or engage in complex conversations?
  • Your child’s physical abilities: Can your child use fine motor skills to point or access a touchscreen?
  • Portability and ease of use: How important is it that the device is easily transported?
  • Cost and funding options: AAC devices can vary in price, so explore insurance coverage and other financial assistance resources.

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A Success Story

Here’s a quick anecdote to illustrate the power of AAC: When I worked with a little boy named Alex, who had severe autism, he was very frustrated because he couldn’t communicate his needs. He’d often throw tantrums and sometimes act out aggressively. After introducing a simple picture exchange system (PECS), the SLP and I saw a dramatic change in Alex. He now had a way to ask for a snack, request a break, or let us know he needed to go to the bathroom. His outbursts decreased, and a sense of calm washed over him.

Finding the Right Fit

Choosing the best AAC device for your child is a team effort. Here’s how to set your child up for success:

  • Consult with an SLP: A speech-language pathologist can assess your child’s communication needs and recommend appropriate AAC devices and strategies.
  • Try different options: Let your child explore and experiment with various devices in therapy, at school, and at home.
  • Provide ongoing support and training: You, your child’s teachers, and therapists will all need to be comfortable using the device to effectively support your child’s communication.

Goally | Apps that Teach Kids AAC & Core Words

Is your child facing challenges in expressing themselves or communicating effectively? Goally has one of the best language language learning apps for kids to support their journey in building essential communication skills!

Goally's AAC Talker app and Word Lab app displayed on 2 Goallys. There's text that reads "Teach AAC and Core Words."

The Word Lab and AAC Talker apps provide a simple, engaging platform for your child to learn core words and become a functional communicator right from the start. Customize the experience with a voice that suits them, and watch as their confidence grows in expressing their thoughts and needs!

AAC devices offer an invaluable lifeline for kids who struggle with traditional speech. By exploring AAC options and working closely with your child’s SLP, you can empower them to find their voice and thrive in all aspects of their life. Remember, every child is unique, so the key is to find the AAC solution that unlocks their full communication potential.

Additional Resources

  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA): https://www.asha.org/) Find information on all aspects of AAC, from basic concepts to the latest research and technology.
  • PrAACtical AAC: https://praacticalaac.org/ is an excellent resource for parents and professionals. It provides practical tips, strategies, and information on AAC.
  • Autism Speaks: https://www.autismspeaks.org/ Although controversial, this site offers a dedicated section on AAC with various resources.

FAQ’s About AAC Devices

What is AAC?
AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. It includes any tools or strategies that help people who struggle with spoken language express themselves.

Who can benefit from AAC devices?
AAC devices can help children and adults with a wide range of conditions, including autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, speech delays, and traumatic brain injuries.

What are the different types of AAC devices?
AAC devices range from simple picture boards and communication books to high-tech speech-generating devices and AAC apps on tablets and smartphones.

How do I choose an AAC device for my child?
The best way to choose an AAC device is to consult with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) who can assess your child's needs and recommend appropriate options.

How can AAC devices improve my child's life?
AAC devices can empower children with communication challenges to express themselves, build relationships, participate in learning, and boost their overall self-confidence.

This post was originally published on 06/13/2022. It was updated on 02/22/2024.

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