AAC and MS, Part 1: Touch Access, Tradeoffs and Choices

Published: 13/03/2018 17:50

March is Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month so we decided to shed a little light on how AAC solutions can help people with speech impairment related to this neurological condition. We thank speech-language pathologists Katie Seaver and Alex Burnham for sharing their observations for this two-part article.

 

AAC technology is building bridges for those with speech impairment related to multiple sclerosis.

About 400,000 people in the United States have MS with roughly 200 new cases diagnosed weekly. Twenty-five to 40 percent of them experience difficulties with slurring and volume of speech, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society website. Web MD notes that “Someone with the disease might have mild trouble with words or severe problems that make it hard for them to speak and be understood. A problem that’s subtle in the beginning might get worse over time.”

Smart phones with AAC apps, tablet-app pairings and traditional AAC devices help folks recapture the ability to communicate. Tremors, physical weakness and fatigue associated with MS vary a lot day to day so access methods are a top consideration.


“It is possible to start with one type of technology and transition to other, often more complex forms as the disease changes the abilities of the individual,” said Mrs. Seaver of the Leonard Florence Center in Chelsea, MA. Or to adapt an AAC device to their changing needs. “There are so many ways to change the selection options within touch screen devices to allow them to remain accessible.”

“It is possible to start with one type of technology and transition to other, often more complex forms as the disease changes the abilities of the individual.”

Katie Seaver

Speech-language pathologist



The Tobii Dynavox Indi and I-110, for example, are known for their reliable touch capabilities, which may be enhanced with optional keyguards. Each device can be adapted for head mouse or switch access. With their tablet design and broad functionality, each reflects the narrowing gap between mainstream and AAC technologies that tends to ease the transition to AAC for people with acquired conditions like MS.

"Most operating systems have adopted the touch accommodations for direct selection which Tobii Dynavox has long incorporated into AAC software," said Mr. Burnham of The Boston Home in Dorchester, MA. "The sky is the limit in terms of potential options for accessibility across all platforms."

Given that people with MS are typically 20 to 40 years old at the time of onset, they’re pretty computer savvy. They may not expect one solution to meet all their needs and we totally understand. That’s why we offer separate versions of our communication software for popular tablet computers.  

"Most operating systems have adopted the touch accommodations for direct selection which Tobii Dynavox has long incorporated into AAC software."

Alex Burnham

Speech-language pathologist

 Taking the traditional AAC device route means another personal choice: Dedicated or non-dedicated? (You can get the Indi or I-110 either way.)  

 Dedicated devices, covered by insurance solely for communication, provide a reliable voice for day-to-day interactions. Non-dedicated or “open” devices also offer internet, infrared environmental controls, email and texting capabilities, which allow a person to be more independent and stay in touch with their world.

 Either way, those bridges to communication stand strong!

 Stay tuned for Part 2 later in March!

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