We have been spreading the message about mainstream products that can help people communicate. These are products that can be useful for people who require augmentative communication, and can be easily sourced by local therapy teams to support individuals they meet. Here we describe two examples:
E-Writers, for example the Boogie Board, have been a particularly popular suggestion. An e-writer is an LCD board with a stylus for writing messages or drawing pictures. The image can be erased when it is finished with. This is a low-cost, portable low-tech AAC solution which may be preferable to using large amounts of paper.
E-writers are available in a range of sizes and styles, with some models saving your images and transferring them wirelessly to a phone, tablet or computer. They are suitable for clients who are able to use handwriting or drawing to support their spoken communication.
The Pen Torch:
One of our clients, a gentleman with MND, explained that as one means of communication he used a stylus to point to an alphabet board. Unfortunately deterioration in his hand function meant that he was finding it increasingly difficult to point the stylus accurately. His conversation partners were often having to guess approximately where on the board he was pointing. This was effortful and time-consuming for all involved.
We suggested that a small pen torch might be helpful to more accurately highlight the letter he wanted without requiring increased hand movement. This piece of kit was easily purchased from the High Street and he found that it made a great difference to his ability to communicate via low-tech AAC. This solution was considered alongside other possible technology (e.g. eyegaze etc). The photo shows it successfully being used in action!
Previously this has been achieved using laser pens (see this great sheet on making one from Margaret Cotts, an Assistive Technology Specialist in the US ), these do carry a small risk in use however. With the advance in LED technology, pen torches are now so bright that they can work just as well in some situations. The use of a light seems easier to ‘read’ than pointing, and can be more relaxing/require smaller movements.
We have created a Local Services Resource Pack with lots more detailed information. This pack has been developed as a guide for local professionals and contains one page profiles on AAC (communication) and Environmental Control products and resources.
Have you got some techniques/mainstream products that have worked well for low tech communication support? Please let us know!