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AAC in Healthcare

Is there any potential for AAC in healthcare? We take a closer look at the role AAC can play in supporting better healthcare and outcomes for all age groups.

Hospitals Can Make You Anxious!

Patients and their families frequently endure stress during hospitalization.

Patients rely on medical professionals for both treatment and help with daily activities. Many patients need the nurses’ help with everything, including getting up, feeding, and using the restroom. Being able to call caregivers in times of physical pain, breakdowns and any other assistance is very essential. So is being able to communicate symptoms as accurately as possible.

AAC Can Support Patients

Patients can better advocate for their needs by using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) tools. AAC strategies and other assistive technology (AT) approaches & products are of great help as well. All these tools facilitate smoother communication between patients and healthcare professionals. There is a wide range of tools to choose from, as per the patients’ needs. These include low-tech AAC devices like PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), symbol charts, communication boards, communication books, etc. Or hi-tech AAC devices including tools and strategies that use electricity, electronics, and batteries.

Sometimes trauma, health deterioration, discomfort, and pain make it harder for people to communicate. People who are using ventilators, for instance, cannot communicate their needs. Writing becomes challenging and tedious because of their compromised condition. Patients must make important choices while they are in such unfavorable circumstances. To ensure they receive appropriate care, they must be able to interact openly with their healthcare professionals. In times like these, AAC steps in as the best tool to bridge the communication gap. 

Below is a sample customized folder designed in Avaz AAC. A similar folder can be used to assist patients in expressing their requests. 

Sample Customized Folder in Avaz AAC for Patients

A speech language pathologist should be consulted when a patient has more complicated communication needs in a medical setting. They will help identify the tools best suited for the patient’s unique needs. An SLP with AAC experience often has more expertise in providing assistance in these situations.

Role of a Pediatrician in AAC Implementation

When it comes to AAC in healthcare, the emphasis need not be on patients and hospitalizations alone.

Pediatric hospitals are required to offer services that are suited to each patient’s specific requirements. This includes those who have a severe communication disability.

A parent is best placed to notice symptoms of any speech difficulty or complex communication needs. This includes being non-verbal (with less than 5 or  20 functional words), and other speech & language difficulties. The first point of seeking clarity is a physician, especially a pediatrician. 

Parents of children with ASD, Cerebral Palsy, Cognitive impairment, and other acquired developmental delays often approach pediatricians to inquire about their child’s development. These conditions make it difficult for the child to express thoughts and socialize with peers. It also results in loss of independence, limited access to education and causes behavioral issues. A possible solution recommended by pediatricians is the implementation of AAC. 

The benefits of using AAC, depending on the situation, are:

  • Increase in comfort 
  • Active participation in classroom activities
  • Academic progress
  • Equal opportunities at education
  • Increases self-esteem
  • Improves social skills and relationships

For more information on the role of developmental pediatricians in implementing AAC, watch this insightful webinar conducted by Avaz:

Getting the Right Support

In the healthcare setting, communication access must be functional, user-friendly, accessible, and simple to acquire. Conducting a needs assessment with the healthcare staff of each department is crucial. This should involve the therapists, nurses, etc to compile an effective patient feedback. Such a process will help identify the need for appropriate AAC supports.

It is important to remember that AAC is not only an supportive tool in helping patients with complex communication needs. It can also be used as a tool to assist those who cannot speak the language. This helps break down any communication barriers when one is most vulnerable in a healthcare setting. 

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