According to the Individual with Disabilities Act of 1988, assistive technology is anything used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of individuals with disabilities.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) strategies assist people with severe communication disabilities to participate more fully in their social roles including interpersonal interaction, learning, education, and community activities. AAC entails learning to communicate by typing on a keyboard or pointing at letters, images, or other symbols to represent messages. This allows a mode of communication other than speech for those who need it.
Benefits of using Touch Screen devices:
- Accessible – ease of attaining technology such as World Wide Web, educational software and innovative applications. Traditional AAC devices have a limited range of therapeutic tools. You are not able to access free trials on the internet.
- All In One Device – you can not only download software that allows you to communicate but also use the computer to do your school work, research, receive and send messages, etc .
- Compatibility – easily download free trials and applications with from a variety of sources. Software adaptable and able to download a wide range of therapeutic tools by accessing free applications on the internet (jeopardy curriculum, games, etc…)
- Generalize skills – once learned the skills used on one computer can be generalized in a variety of environments (home, computer labs, schools, etc) they won’t be limited to one or two devices that are not useful in other settings
- Extensive – bigger range of therapeutic uses.
- Instant Gratification – cause and effect reward (you push a button, you get a response)
- High multi-sensory – visuals, tactile, sound
- Inexpensive – compared to other AAC devices
- Simple Steps – reduce sequencing demands. Some children and adults with autism will learn more easily if the computer keyboard is placed close to the screen because they have difficulty remembering (memory and sequencing) if they have to look up after they hit a key on the keyboard.. This enables the individual to simultaneously see the keyboard and the screen. Using a touch screen computer eliminates this problem altogether!
- Tactile Input – In older nonverbal children and adults, touch is often their most reliable sense. A touch screen allows them to learn as they learn best- through touch.
- Ease of Motor Control – Many individuals with autism have difficulty using a computer mouse. Some people with motor control problems in their hands find it very difficult to hold the mouse still during clicking. Using a touch screen can eliminate the use of these fine motor skills.
Limitations to Traditional AT/AAC Devices:
- Required to go through a liaison/vendor to purchase.
- Requires specialized training.
- Must have access to all reports (medical and school) before schools can purchase.
- Limited compatibility — can’t integrate new applications, internet resources, etc…
- Singular purpose rather than multi-use/multi-purpose.
- Inflexible for innovation. (innovative but limited to one product or software)
- Very expensive.
- Difficult to generalize skills: limited specific device