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One New Future AAC Idea for Forward Thinking Friday

Happy Forward Thinking Friday! Forward is the state motto of Wisconsin so to honor this excellent slogan - one word, simple yet powerful - my goal is to begin discussions which have future impacts for individuals with disabilities and communications disorders including those who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and Speech Generating Devices (SGD). It is absolutely easier to look at ways to slightly change what currently is, rather than identify the potential of what is not yet and create what is to become.


One Future AAC Idea:

A Multiple Screen Display Speech Generating Device (SGD) with Cloud-Based Communication Software

The Rationale

A Multi-Screen Display AAC system / SGD would support:

  • Spontaneous communication

  • Significantly increased AAC modeling opportunities

  • Access to Emergency Services (e.g., calling for help, contacting EMS)

  • Effectiveness of communication

  • Ease of access

  • Simplified Editing

  • Smart Home Integration

  • Independence

How it works

A speech generating device (speech generating system) would consist of a “Main Screen Display” which is designed to be used across all communication environments, but includes a network of multiple other “Side Screen Displays” throughout an environment like at home, school, or work. The other screens are not counted as “separate devices,” but rather the total system is ONE Speech Generating Device. The Main Screen Display and Side Screen Displays all access cloud-based Communication Software via WiFi. The Communication Software syncs and displays on all Screens. The individual can access the same vocabulary whether in the bathroom, in bed, in the kitchen, etc. without transporting one specific Screen to all these different locations.

Why it will work

  1. Cloud-based technology for near-instant edits of many different types of software across multiple screens and devices already exists and works well

  2. Communication devices which sync while on WiFi and back-up store vocabulary already exist. Touchscreen displays, Raspberry Pi, and additional components – stay with me – already exist.

  3. Easy to add Screens via mounting equipment or installing ports in walls.

  4. Not that expensive – especially when compared to current costs of Speech Generating Devices.


For parents and communication partners ...

Access to “Always-Available” Multi-Screen AAC Device provides an opportunity for consistent communication for your child, but equally as important, makes it easier to always always respond to and MODEL spontaneous communication across all environments in your home. One of the best things about being a Speech-Language Pathologist is when a parent excitedly shares a new communication skill or attempt from their child. Whether the child’s AAC system was available during this spontaneous communication exchange gets mixed results and understandably so. These spontaneous moments are some of the most critical to MODEL, EXPAND, TEACH, and REINFORCE communication and AAC skills, but can also be the most challenging to use an AAC system. A multi-screen system would support having constant and consistent access to support growth in these amazing moments – even if the Main Screen Display was left at school, accidentally left in the car, or hidden under a bed.

Final thoughts for a Multi-Display Speech Generating Device….

Imagine you were at the grocery store and needed to edit a communication page with new vocabulary words but you also want to get the heck out the store as quickly as possible. You get home and forget about the edits until you’re already in bed and your SGD is charging on the kitchen counter. Not only are you in danger of not accessing the device in an emergency, you also need to wait to make the edits. The next day is hectic and when you are finally ready to program your device, you have completely forgotten what needed to be changed. A multi-screen set-up with cloud-based design would allow for an accessible Screen Display placed in your bedroom to make edits when you think of them, have updates centrally saved and available on all Screens, and have the Main Screen Display ready for your next trip to the store. This applies to quickly adding new medical needs, pains, or other urgent communication needs to a system.

Rough estimate of cost if using off the shelf, consumer ready technology: ~$2,000

  • Refurbished and Preowned tablets (Screen Displays) have a wide price range, but at a cost of around ~$250/each, 5 screens (aka tablets) would cost approximately $1,250.

  • Software and licensing will also vary in price by company but using Grid 3 as an example as it has cloud-based features, a full license in the app store costs $349.99.

  • A waterproof case for a Display Screen in the bathroom (or shower / bath) is ~$130.

  • Mounting and installation equipment will vary by an individual’s needs, (e.g., wall / table mounting), but before all the other costs are added up, the total is still under $2,000 to have communication AND Smart Home access from anywhere in a location without worrying about taking a single device everywhere at all times.


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