New campaign to support Alternative & Augmentative Communication

Not everyone has the ability to speak but being able to have your say is a basic human right. A new campaign has been launched to encourage all of us to find out what we can do to support those who use ‘alternative and augmentative communication’ (AAC).

AAC can include various methods that can support or get around problems that an individual might have with speaking or understanding information. These range from simple systems such as pictures, gestures and pointing to more complex techniques involving powerful technology and synthetic voices.

It is estimated that there are 26,500 people in Scotland who require AAC, and there are many reasons for this. Communication may be impaired due to lifelong conditions such as cerebral palsy and autism or it may be as a result of an acquired condition such as dementia, motor neurone disease, stroke and head injury.

Rachael Monk, who uses AAC technology because she has cerebral palsy, said: “My communication aid has made a huge difference to my quality of life. It allows me to convey my thoughts, feelings and opinions. I can voice concerns, make choices, tell jokes, and chat with friends, like anybody should be able to do.  I attended college and obtained an A level in Fine Arts, I have given speeches at conferences, and I am able to speak up in important meetings.  Without my communication aid, I would not be able to do any of this or express exactly what I wanted to say.”

Helen McFarlane, Programme Director, Allied Health Professions, NES, and a speech and language therapist, said: “AAC has incredible potential to improve quality of life, allowing individuals to express themselves, be more independent and, importantly, allowing the people who love them to get to know them.  But there are no magic fixes. Different systems will work best for different people.  What matters most is the support of the wider community and taking time to listen.”

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