Families & Caregivers

Finding Results Through Deeper Connection & Communication With AAC

Communication is essential, but when that communication is nonverbal it can become complicated. Thousands of families long to have everyday conversations with their loved ones who are nonverbal. Sign language is one example of augmentative communication which has entered mainstream culture, but what of individuals who are nonverbal but able to hear or people who are nonverbal and  without the fine motor dexterity required to sign? Over 4 million Americans use Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC, to express themselves and be understood — a number that goes up every year. 

For children and adults who are nonverbal and do not have the benefit of augmentative communication to interact with the people in their lives, the world can feel like a lonely place. Even for those parents who have taken the brave step to introduce AAC into their homes and their children’s lives, the difficulties faced with developing language do not change overnight. Oftentimes the learners of symbol systems feel fraught with discouragement over the same challenges they face with speaking verbally. 

The advent of speech-generating devices and apps has been a huge step up from the picture boards. Picture symbols could be located and activated on mobile apps with the touch of the screen. Even then, however, many learners struggled to succeed in their language development due to a lack of modeling and a lack of seeing others speak in picture symbols. Despite the convenience of an accessible database of symbols, the lag time required to retrieve each and every symbol made AAC systems difficult and frustrating for many budding symbol speakers’ communication partners.

Even when parents and loved ones learn proficiency with symbol systems, there is still the need for pre-planned messages and responses in order to communicate. In short, the symbol systems are only as effective as their ability to be flexible and responsive to the flow of dynamic conversation. With traditional options, that has never been the case.

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Now AAC has taken another large step forward with Symbol-It. As a companion mobile app to speech-generating systems, Symbol-It brings the game-changing feature of speech-to-symbol translation, which allows for the instant retrieval of symbols at the speed of verbal communication. This means that symbol speakers no longer need to suffer from unnecessary delays while the communication partner hunts for each desired symbol on the speech generating device. With Symbol-It, a symbol speaker’s communication partner can give unscripted, instantaneous, and meaningful directions, responses, and rephrased messages as easily and quickly as with spoken language.

Symbol-It’s real-time translation is based upon the revolutionary theory of Dual-Symbol Immersion (O’Lenick & Garcia Trevino, Hear MY Voice, 2020) which gives the developing symbol speaker every advantage in learning to express themselves through others (parents, teachers, doctors, etc.) using verbal and symbol language every day in every situation with every person in their life. By immersing the developing symbol speaker in his/her preferred symbol system, the symbol speaker develops language through the same process as verbal language development. Without this deep level of immersion, symbol speakers will always be behind in their development.

Symbol-It makes it possible for anybody to speak in symbols without losing the melody, rate, and inflection of audible speech. Thanks to Symbol-It, now communication partners can speak in full sentences, can have meaningful conversations with their symbol-speaking loved ones, while better positioning symbol speakers to develop a language proficiency, including literacy skills, all of their own.

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