Let’s Talk About AAC: Better Speech and Hearing Month Meets ALS Awareness Month

During May, two national observances combine to make it possible for people with severe neurodegenerative disorders communicate with the world. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association celebrates Better Speech and Hearing Month, and the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Foundation celebrates ALS Awareness Month. ALS is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. People with ALS may develop issues with speech and swallowing as the disease progresses. A speech therapist can help with exercises and therapy as speaking and swallowing become difficult. They can also help people with ALS find devices to help them communicate, learn how to use them every day, and make adjustment as needed down the road. Other neurological and neuromuscular disorders can affect a person’s ability to speak and swallow, such as Parkinson’s Disease, traumatic brain injury, and stroke. New research in therapies and augmentative and alternative communication supports can help people with these and other disorders communicate with the world around them.  Here’s a look at some of the latest research and development from the NIDILRR community:

The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (RERC on AAC) conducts rigorous evidence-based research for designing effective AAC technologies and interventions, develops and evaluates innovative AAC engineering solutions driven by consumer needs, and provides comprehensive training and dissemination to ensure that all individuals, including children and adults with developmental, acquired, and severe disabilities have access to effective AAC to enhance the communication of individuals with complex communication needs. Visit their site to learn about using motion to improve AAC user interface displays, developing an access assistant software program to alternative access services, and remote training for AAC communication partners. The RERC on AAC’s instructional modules and Moodle offer free training and presentations on a wide array of AAC topics, including supporting communication of individuals with minimal movement, seating and positioning for AAC users, and AAC and communication in the workplace.

Project Open: Improving In-Person Expressive Communication with Open-Source Technologies conducts research and development to improve the expressive communication of individuals with complex communication needs using AAC technologies during in-person conversations and interactions. The project includes the Project Open Design Community, which invites AAC developers and practitioners to join in creating AAC solutions to meet the community’s needs using open-source technology and inclusive design practices.

The Mouth Mouse: An Intuitive Tongue Controller of Electronic Systems Designed Specifically for Individuals with Severe Upper-Limb Impairment is an innovative project to develop a controller that requires minimal movement to operate a device. A person uses a Bluetooth compliant controller that fits on the roof of their mouth, using their tongue against the controller to move a mouse on a computer. This could be used to type message in a speech program, navigate a website or program, and so much more! The product is in development to reduce the size and develop a scalable workflow to create a commercially viable product. Watch the Mouth Mouse in action.

Are you interested in more research on AAC and ALS? Explore these links which take you directly to search results in our REHABDATA database:

Contact our information specialists if you would like to learn more about ALS, AAC, and other resources to help you celebrate Better Speech and Hearing Month and ALS Awareness Month!

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