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