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This page was last updated on: 23 October, 2012
Communication is the act of giving or sharing thoughts, opinions, or information with speech, sign, expressions, or writing. The field of augmented communication addresses the needs of people unable to clearly communicate or express themselves using standard communication tools, such as spoken language, body language, sign language, and handwriting.
When a person is unable to communicate using standard techniques, they may need an augmentative communication system with the ability to fulfill their communication needs. Communication disorders may be caused by both congenital and acquired conditions. Some examples of congenital disorders that may cause communication impairments are: cerebral palsy, mental retardation, developmental delays, autism, and developmental apraxia. Some acquired disorders included: stroke, traumatic brain injury (TBI), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease or ALS), multiple sclerosis, and high level spinal cord injuries.
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA), in 1991 approximately 2 million Americans did not have the ability to satisfy their communication needs. One source indicates that world wide, between .2% and .6 % of the population is affected by conditions that result in the inability to communicate (Blackstone 1990a).
The two needs that AAC fills are conversation and graphic. Conversation describes needs typically filled by speech or American Sign Language. Major needs filled by conversational communication are initiating and interaction, a greeting, a request, information exchange, comments, and error correction. Graphic communication describes needs that would normally be filled by writing utensils, typewriters, calculators, and computers. Written communication is used for writing, drawing, note taking, and mathematics.