Inside: Learn what an AAC device is, and the most popular ones used by autistic students for communication.

AAC devices (Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices) are an essential tool for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who are unable to communicate verbally. It is not only autistic students who cannot speak, it is a symptom of other disabilities as well. However, most people connect non-speaking children with autism.

Using an AAC device for communication can be a real game-changer for kids. An AAC device can be high tech or a low tech assistive technology device.

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A child can learn to use an AAC device at home or at school.

These devices enable them to express themselves and interact with others effectively.

There have been several viral news stories recently about adults who were brushed off as intellectually disabled and severely disabled, but when an appropriate communication method was found, they were anything but!

There are many types of AAC devices available in the market, ranging from low-tech to high-tech devices. In this article, we will focus on the best AAC devices for individuals with autism.

1. What is an AAC Device?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. An AAC device is a tool or system that helps individuals with communication difficulties to express themselves effectively. It is used when someone has difficulty speaking or cannot speak at all.

An AAC device may be used by people with a variety of communication disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, stroke, and traumatic brain injury, among others.

AAC devices can take many forms, ranging from low-tech systems, such as communication boards with symbols or pictures, to high-tech devices, such as speech-generating devices with touch screens or eye-tracking technology.

The goal of an AAC device is to provide an individual with a way to communicate their wants, needs, thoughts, and feelings. The choice of the AAC device depends on the individual’s specific communication needs, physical abilities, and cognitive abilities.

AAC devices are designed to be customizable, allowing users to choose symbols, pictures, and vocabulary that match their communication needs and preferences.

Many people think "iPad" when thinking about AAC devices.
Many people think “iPad” when thinking about AAC devices, but there are many other options.

2. How much do AAC Devices cost?

The cost of AAC devices can vary greatly depending on the type of device, the features, and the customization options needed for the individual. Low-tech AAC devices, such as communication boards with symbols or pictures, can range from less than $50 to a few hundred dollars.

High-tech AAC devices, such as speech-generating devices with touch screens or eye-tracking technology, can range from a few thousand dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.

In addition to the initial cost of the AAC device, there may be ongoing costs for maintenance, repairs, and software updates.

Some insurance plans may cover the ongoing costs of AAC devices, but it is important to check the specific coverage and requirements with the insurance provider.

It is recommended to work with a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) to determine the most appropriate and effective AAC device for an individual’s specific communication needs. The SLP can also provide information on the cost and coverage options for AAC devices.

There may also be nonprofit organizations and government programs that provide funding assistance for AAC devices for individuals who do not have insurance coverage or cannot afford the cost of the device.

an SLP should assess your child for an AAC device
Work with a qualified SLP to choose the right AAC device for your child.

3. AAC Devices for Autism

Here are some of the best AAC devices for individuals with autism:

  1. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a low-tech AAC device that uses pictures to aid communication. The PECS system uses a sequence of picture symbols to communicate requests, wants, and needs. It is a simple and effective system that is easy to learn and use. The PECS system is particularly useful for individuals who have limited verbal communication skills. The PECS system is very popular!
  2. Talking Mats: Talking Mats is a visual tool that uses a mat and a set of symbols to enable communication. The mats are designed to provide a visual representation of the communication process, making it easier for students to communicate effectively. The Talking Mats system is particularly useful for individuals who have difficulty expressing their emotions and feelings. Note: You may see some online for dogs, which feels….weird. But yeah, same concept.
  3. DynaVox: DynaVox is a high-tech AAC device that is designed to provide a wide range of communication options for individuals with autism. The DynaVox system uses a touchscreen display and a range of symbols and icons to enable communication. The system also includes a range of communication software programs that are designed to meet the specific needs of individuals with autism.
  4. Tobii Eye Gaze: The Tobii Eye Gaze system is a high-tech AAC device that uses eye-tracking technology to enable communication. The system uses a camera to track the movements of the eyes and translate them into words and symbols on a computer screen. The Tobii Eye Gaze system is particularly useful for individuals who have limited motor skills and cannot use traditional AAC devices.
  5. GoTalk: GoTalk is a low-tech AAC device that uses a range of picture symbols to enable communication. The GoTalk system includes a range of communication boards that are designed to meet the specific needs of individuals with autism. The GoTalk system is particularly useful for individuals who have difficulty with fine motor skills. (My son used this for quite a long time!)
  6. Proloquo2Go: Proloquo2Go is a high-tech AAC device that is designed to provide a range of communication options for individuals with autism. The system uses a touchscreen display and a range of symbols and icons to enable communication. The system also includes a range of communication software programs that are designed to meet the specific needs of non speaking children.
  7. Prentke Romich Company (PRC) Devices: The Prentke Romich Company (PRC) devices are high-tech AAC devices that are designed to provide a wide range of communication options for individuals with autism. The PRC devices use a range of symbols and icons to enable communication. The system also includes a range of communication software programs that are designed to meet the specific needs of individuals with autism.
PECS aac device
Many PECS books look like this, and many use actual photos.

4. How to Get an AAC Device

The choice of AAC device depends on the specific needs of the individual with autism. It is recommended that individuals with autism receive a thorough assessment by a qualified speech-language pathologist to determine the most appropriate AAC device for their needs.

That is a parent’s first step–ask for evaluations. This may take place in school or in the private sector.

If your child has their assistive technology evaluation done by the school district, and it’s determined that your child requires an AAC device, then the school is responsible for purchasing it.

If assistive technology or an AAC device is added to your child’s IEP, you definitely want to work with the team to develop assistive technology IEP goals. A child does not just intuitively know how to use an AAC device and communicate successfully on the first try.

5. Are AAC devices covered by Insurance?

AAC devices can be covered by insurance, depending on the specific insurance plan and coverage.

To determine if an AAC device is covered by insurance, it is recommended to contact the insurance provider and inquire about the specific coverage for AAC devices.

It is important to note that some insurance plans may require a diagnosis of a specific communication disorder and a prescription from a physician or a licensed speech-language pathologist (SLP) before covering the cost of an AAC device.

In addition, some insurance plans may require a prior authorization process, where the individual or their healthcare provider needs to submit a request for coverage to the insurance provider for approval.

It is also important to note that some AAC devices may require ongoing maintenance and replacement, which may also be covered by insurance, depending on the specific coverage and requirements.

It is recommended to review the insurance plan coverage for ongoing maintenance and replacement of AAC devices.

Overall, it is possible for AAC devices to be covered by insurance, but it is important to check with the insurance provider to understand the specific coverage and requirements. You can also do an insurance appeal if you disagree with your plan’s determination.

6. Does Medicaid cover AAC devices?

Many insurance plans, including Medicaid and private insurance, may cover the cost of AAC devices under certain conditions. However, the specific coverage and requirements may vary by state and insurance provider.

There are many types of AAC devices available in the market that can assist individuals with autism in communicating effectively.

Don’t forget to ask your provider if they allow your child to do a free trial to make sure it’s the right one for them.

Also Read: The Correlation between Autism and Transgender Kids

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