Study on different AAC tools

Children at Vidya Sagar use the AVAZ device on Monday. Photo: K.V. Srinivasan.  

When the question “Who made the fancy bindi you are wearing?” is posed to C. Nagamanjari, who has Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, she touches the ‘conversations' option on the screen followed by ‘family' and finally ‘mother' and the machine reads out the answer. This Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) device called AVAZ is a useful communication tool for children who are speech-impaired.

Like the AVAZ there are many other modes of AAC such as sign language and pictures. But which is the most effective AAC for children?

Vidya Sagar, supported by the United Way of Chennai, has launched a study on the different AACs used by children based on their abilities and needs to identify some of the best and conducive strategies for children.

The study seeks to determine and validate best practices to enhance the communication skills of these children.

“The fact that many people wear spectacles has been taken for granted, and people who wear these vision-aiding devices are not considered odd or discriminated against. Similarly, people who need assistive devices for speech should also find it equally simple to pick up a device from anywhere and feel completely at ease using it,” said Ajit Narayanan, co-founder of Invention Labs, who ideated and developed AVAZ.

Since its launch last year, the device has been modified to make it more compact.

“It is portable now and children can carry it to classrooms. We have increased the battery life, introduced local languages and modified the device for children with autism,” said Mr. Narayanan.

For children with autism, since their motor coordination is poor, the device highlights the options one by one and the child can press a button to select when the highlight reaches a particular option.

Proper use of the various communication aids will address issues of literacy, employment and advocacy, said Rajul Padmanabhan, director, Vidya Sagar.

Special educators also emphasised the need for better awareness of the various technologies available. “Technology can solve an issue, but what is more important is that there is need for awareness about such technologies and how it can be used. Case studies of people who use the AACs should be done and experts should recommend how these devices should be used,” said Mr. Narayanan.

United Way of Chennai, a not-for-profit organisation, has donated five AVAZ devices to students of Vidya Sagar.

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Printable version | Sep 22, 2021 5:18:31 PM |

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