Research shows a range of AT supports may help your child communicate., These AT supports may be available through your NDIS plan or mainstream and community supports. This can include support from charity groups and schools. This may vary between schools and states.
Your child may use more than one AT communication product depending on their needs. Your child may need different AT communication supports as they grow and develop.
You might find one or more of the AT supports listed below suits your child’s needs now or in the future. There may also be other supports available which are not listed.
Supports will look different for every child and family. The key to the successful use of AT is through regular practice and use in your child’s daily life. Working together with a team of professionals and family members where your child learns and develops their everyday abilities and skills is important.
For more information about the importance of a family-centred approach, refer to ECI Best Practice Early Childhood Guidelines.
Supporting children with augmentative and alternative communication tools
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a broad term that describes tools to support communication. It doesn’t include hearing or braille devices. Often your child may use a combination or swap between different tools. This is called multimodal communication. AAC can be either light/low technology or high technology.
Light/low technology AAC uses pictures, symbols, written words, textures or objects to support communication. It does not need complex technology or an electronic device. For example, your child might use light/low technology to ask for something, make a comment, or answer a question using:
- cards with pictures or symbols
- object symbols
- a communication board or books (like a page or a book of pictures and symbols your child and the person they are communicating with can point to)
- an eye-gaze board (like communication boards but for children who show their choices by focusing on them with their eyes)
High technology AAC uses some form of complex technology to support communication. These include Speech generating devices (SGDs) or voice output communication aids and Computer or tablets with communication software installed.
- SGDs or voice output communication aids are portable electronic devices that allow children to create a message or to choose from messages in the device to say something for example by pressing a button or switch to say a word or sentence and join in a game.
- Computer or tablet with communication software could include an installed communication App that your child uses to tell you about their day at school.
Communication partners are important in helping children to learn to use their AAC. A communication partner:
- can be anyone who interacts with the AAC user (in this case your child), a parent or caregiver, teachers, or family and friends.
- should receive support and training in the use of the AAC technology or tools being used.
Children who use AAC technology may develop skills to communicate more independently over time.
For more information about the different types of AAC, please discuss with your AAC specialist or refer to online resources such as communication aids and supports.
Supporting children who are blind or have low vision with assistive technology
AT for children who are blind or have low vision may support them to interact with their world and engage in daily tasks. It may also help children to achieve developmental milestones. AT devices specific for children who are blind or have low vision may include:
- magnifiers either optical (glass), electronic (video-based), smart device applications, cameras or computer software
- reading devices for digital content and books such as DAISY reader, talking book, audio book player
- optical reading aids for example equipment for reading printed documents
- braille printer or embosser
- refreshable braille device for example keyboard, portable, notetaker, display
- screen reader for example AT that converts text, buttons, images and other screen elements into speech or braille.
Children who are blind or have low vision may also use AT for mobility. This information is available in the GUS for mobility.
For more information about AT to support your child, please discuss with your AT Advisor or your vision specialist. You may also refer to online resources such as Aids for Vision & Hearing (external).