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Home > AAC Features > Message Composition

Message Composition Features

We've covered a number of features already, and yet we haven't gotten to the true "heart" of an AAC device--the way in which messages are composed. I should emphasize again that "messages" aren't just sentences, but could be a word (e.g., "okay"), a phrase (e.g., "Not now"), a partial sentence (e.g., "How about next week?"), or a full-length sentence like this one.

In this section, you'll learn how users put together messages. You'll also learn about device features that can facilitate the process.

Navigation Note:

View these sections in any order you choose but be sure to come back for the Clinical Considerations below.

A. Message Options

Not every device or communication aid permits the AAC user to compose every type of message. Some aids can produce only preprogrammed messages, others can produce only novel messages and then some can produce both types of messages.

B. Activation Feedback

Activation feedback refers to what the AAC user can see or hear as he constructs messages. True activation feedback is different from the output transmitted to the communication partner.

C. Rate Enhancement

Able-bodied speakers have a tremendous advantage over AAC users because alternative communication methods are always slower than speech. The features described here increase the rate of communication with AAC devices.

Clinical Considerations about Message Composition Features

Rate enhancement may seem like a luxury, a way to increase the speed of message composition to keep up with speakers. However, it is a potentially lifesaving feature of a device. Consider these scenarios, where speed makes a huge difference:

  • An individual gets his foot caught underneath his wheelchair because he couldn't tell the attendant fast enough to lift up his foot onto the footrest before moving the chair.
  • An AAC user cannot ask for help fast enough when his jacket is caught in the railing of a bus lift.
  • An adult cannot stop an attendant from putting a second dose of medicine in his feeding tube before walking away.

Other message composition features make a tremendous difference too. For example, if an AAC user is provided a device with the inappropriate message options or the wrong activation feedback, then communication may not happen at all. Consider the following:

  • A individual cannot talk about abuse he suffers because his device has preprogrammed messages only
  • An AAC user can spell, but he has a word board or a device with preprogrammed words and phrases only
  • An individual cannot compose messages ahead of time because he has no activation feedback, to know whether he is composing it correctly

Go back to Introduction to AAC Features
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