Communication Aids (AAC)
Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) or Communication aids are devices which can enable those who have lost the ability to speak, or have not developed speech, to communicate.
What Is AAC?
AAC devices can either be an alternative to those without speech or augment someone’s existing speech. AAC devices are generally divided into ‘low tech’ (paper or people based systems) and ‘high tech’ computer based systems. The Electronic Assistive Technology Service provides assessment for and provision of high tech AAC systems for people with the most complex needs.
Across England, AAC Services are provided by specialist 'hub' services such as the Electronic Assistive Technology Service - but also by local AAC Services. These services aim to meet the needs of those who do not meet hub eligibility and are most people's first interaction with AAC Services.
Who Is Eligible?
The Electronic Assistive Technology Service covers the East Midlands Region - that is Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Northamptonshire, Milton Keynes and Nottinghamshire (Excluding Bassetlaw). To be eligible, your GP must be in one of the Clinical Commissioning Groups covering these regions - if you are unsure please don't hesitate to contact the department to check.
Eligibility criteria are drawn up by NHS England as part of the service specification. We would recommend you contact your local speech and language therapist to ensure you or the person you are considering for the referral would meet the criteria. In brief, the referral criteria for the service are:
- A severe / complex communication difficulty associated with a range of physical, cognitive, learning or sensory deficits.
- A clear discrepancy between their level of understanding and their ability to speak.
- The person must be able to understand the purpose of a communication aid
- The person must have developed beyond cause and effect understanding
- The person must have experience of using low tech AAC which is insufficient to enable them to realise their communicative potential.
We encourage speech and language therapists or other professionals or carers to contact the department before making a referral to discuss the above criteria.
What Kind Of Equipment Can Be Provided?
We are able to supply high tech communication aids to enable people to form messages and retain or develop communication with their families, teachers, friends, carers and others. These devices can range from iPads and other iDevices to purpose built tablet communication devices running bespoke language software. These devices can be controlled using touch, switches, eye gaze or many other access methods such as muscle controlled switches, sip-puff switches etc.
What Is The process?
A referral to the department will be screened at weekly triage meetings. These are to determine whether the person meets the eligibility criteria and help us understand how best to carry out the assessment. If the referral is rejected at triage, we will usually contact the referrer to give direction about what other information is required, where the referral might be able to be taken next etc.
If the referral is successful we will arrange an assessment appointment. This can take place at home, school or wherever else is appropriate. This can take between 1 and 3 hours depending on the person's needs and will be conducted by the most appropriate member or members of our team. At this appointment you will have chance to ask questions about the choice of device and we we will likely trial a number of devices and access methods. This assessment may conclude that the person requires a certain piece of equipment or may conclude that low-technology approaches would be more suitable
Following the assessment, if equipment is to be provided, a separate appointment will be made to provide this. This may be with the original member of staff who completed the assessment or may be with a different member of staff.
If you have a local AAC Service which is able to conduct an AAC assessment to the same standard as the EAT Service they can refer for an 'equipment only' request.
Equipment provided by the EAT Service for AAC needs is paid for by the service. There are no direct costs to the person receiving the service.
How Do I Refer?
Your local speech and language therapist should refer using the form in the 'for professionals' section of this website. However, if you are unable to contact your local speech and language therapist please contact the service to discuss the referral you would like to make.« Return to 'For Patients'