For people with little or no speech who use electronic communication devices as their “voice”, it is easy to assume that this device will be with them and working at all times. This is often not the case.
When supporting someone who does not speak but uses another way of communicating, also known as augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), you really need to consider all of the ‘what if’ scenarios.
For example, Charlie is using one of the many apps on an iPad as his voice. But what if:
- Charlie’s iPad falls off his wheelchair and breaks
- The battery runs out at lunch time while he is playing with friends
- Charlie wants to chat when he goes swimming
Strategic competence refers to ways that people who use AAC can overcome these limitations of their systems or their own skills. (Light, 1989).
What can we do to be prepared for these real ‘what if’ scenarios? Here are our top 5 tips:
1. Use more than one method to communicate
Multi-modal communication is when a person uses many methods to get their message across ̶ we all do this. Try using facial expressions and body language, or even point to objects or pictures to get your message across.
2. Have a back-up charger
Often devices only come with one charger. Purchase another one to leave at home and one to travel with the device at all times so you always have a back up. Your device might also be compatible with a universal portable charger so you have another option.
3. Get a non-electronic communication aid
Having a back up communication system that does not rely on batteries or power is a must. This can include a simple alphabet board, set of community request cards or even a more complex communication book. There are a variety of communication aids available through the Non-electronic Communication Aid Scheme.
4. Key Word Sign and natural gesture
Using an unaided form of communicating that does not rely on anything other than the use of your hands. Key Word Sign and natural gesture, can allow for effective communication in environments where the use of an aid is not possible, eg. at the swimming pool. However, keep in mind that the person you are communicating with may not have the same knowledge of formal signs.
5. Don’t forget the use of Yes and No Questions
Ask how the person indicates yes and no. This could be by using their eyes to look up for yes and down for no, a head movement or some other way. Once you have worked this out, yes/no questions are a powerful way of communicating when you have no other option available.
Well there you have it, our top 5 tips for preparing for the practical hiccups that occur when communicating with people who use devices as their voice. Share your tips with us below.
Light, J. (1989). Toward a Definition of Communicative Competence for individuals using augmentative and alternative communication systems. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 137-144.