Read and Spell Blog

How to make use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for learners with autism

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and autism

Augmentative and alternative communication is a general term used to refer to approaches, strategies, and tools, that enable children and adults with autism and speech and language disorders to communicate their wants, needs, thoughts, and emotions.

Augmentative and alternative communication is not appropriate for everyone with a speech or language disorder, but may be useful for people with apraxia of speech, stroke-related dysphasia and dysarthria, and other conditions that affect written expression and/or control of the muscles of the face, throat and mouth, such as cerebral palsy.

Sign language, pen and paper, and hand gestures are basic forms of augmentative and alternative communication, as is using a chart and pointing to pictures, letters, words or symbols.

Alternatives to speech can be as high-tech as specially fitted devices which allow people to communicate using custom buttons and pressure sensors, or as everyday as children and adults making use of a laptop computer and smartphone to meet their communication needs. On a computer or mobile device, written language can either be typed and displayed on screen or typed and read aloud by an automatized voice facilitated by text-to-speech technology.

5 Types of learning difficulties and how to help

5 Types of learning difficulties

A learning difficulty is a condition that can cause an individual to experience problems in a traditional classroom learning context. It may interfere with literacy skills development and math/maths and can also affect memory, ability to focus and organizational skills. A child or adult with a learning difficulty may require additional time to complete assignments at school and can often benefit from strategy instruction and classroom accommodations, such as material delivered in special fonts or the ability to use a computer to take notes.

No two individuals with a learning difficulty are exactly alike and many conditions, such as dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, attention deficit hyperactive disorder, dyscalculia, and dysgraphia, exist on a wide-spectrum. There is also dyspraxia, a motor-skills difficulty that can affect a learner’s ability to write by hand, and may impact on planning skills. It’s not uncommon for learning difficulties and motor-skills difficulties to co-present. For example, dyslexia and dyspraxia, or ADD/ADHD and dyspraxia can occur together.

This program is working great. We are using it for our 6 year old and he is enjoying it. He wants to "do my typing" each day. Our 4 year old daughter watches with keen interest. The way it is designed really does include reading and spelling and not just typing. –

See more testimonials

Apraxia vs. aphasia: What’s the difference?

Apraxia vs. aphasia: What’s the difference?

Both apraxia of speech and aphasia affect an individual’s ability to communicate – they just do so in different ways. Apraxia makes it hard to coordinate muscle movements and put sounds in the right order to produce intelligible speech. It may also impact on speech planning. Individuals can struggle with consonant clusters, rhythm, and stress, and may generally experience difficulties with aspects related to the prosody of language.

On the other hand, aphasia is about language retrieval and recognition. People with aphasia or dysphasia may not be able to find the words they need to express themselves in speech or in writing, or they might use the wrong words and not realize it. Additionally, individuals with receptive aphasia don’t always understand what other people are saying and can finding listening and reading challenging.

If aphasia and apraxia of speech are the result of a stroke, a person may also experience difficulties with enunciation, referred to as dysarthria. This can present as trouble controlling the volume levels of speech, excessive drooling, or problems getting enough air while speaking. Dysarthria is caused by weakness or paralysis of the muscles of the lips, tongue, throat and face.

Which exercises can help with regaining speech after a stroke

Regaining speech after a stroke

Communication difficulties following a stroke can take many forms. You may experience trouble finding the right word or have problems processing language that is directed at you – these conditions are commonly referred to as aphasia/dysphasia. When you struggle with speaking it’s referred to as productive aphasia and with understanding it’s receptive aphasia.

Aphasia and dysphasia are almost the same thing, except dysphasia is when you have partial access to language and aphasia is when you have none. Some individuals who have had a stroke find speaking difficult because of challenges with annunciation; this is called dysarthria. Speaking and breathing at the same time, or swallowing, may also be problematic with dysarthria.

It’s possible for paralysis, hemiplegia – one-sided paralysis - or hemiparesis - weakness on one side of the body following a stroke - to interrupt written modes of communication such as writing or typing. But just as every individual is unique, so is their recovery and it can be hard to put an exact estimate on the time it will take to regain communicative ability and/or how fully it will return.

Many people see the greatest gains in the first six weeks, as swelling in the brain goes down, and language processing areas which were temporarily affected come back online. However, it’s possible to see improvements for years after a stroke, particularly if an individual continues to receive speech therapy to strengthen and reinforce communication skills and confidence.

How to know when handwriting problems are caused by dysgraphia or dyspraxia

3 Common handwriting problems in children

Learning how to write is one of the most important things a child will do when he or she begins school. That’s because writing offers a means for self-expression and reflecting on the work of others, but it’s also how knowledge and learning is measured in our society. Writing can be done on a computer or through dictation using speech-to-text technology, but it’s more common for children to learn how to write by hand. This happens between the ages of 4 and 5 and involves becoming familiar with the letters of the alphabet, mastering the pen strokes used to form letters, and practicing with holding the pen or pencil in a tripod grip.

It’s common for new writers to struggle with letter formation, spacing and posture in the beginning, but most are able to produce clear and legible text by the end of the second grade. However, there are some children who continue to struggle with the mechanics of handwriting beyond age 7 or 8. For these learners, writing is often slow and labored, and may cause high levels of stress, frustration, anxiety, and embarrassment at school.

Understanding dyspraxia in adults

5 Things to know about dyspraxia in adults

Dyspraxia is a motor learning disability that can impact on gross and fine motor skills, coordination and planning ability. In certain cases processing speed, attention and memory may also be affected. Because no two people will present with the same set or severity of symptoms, every dyspraxic individual has different needs. For example, it can be helpful for some students to have task instructions broken down into individual steps and lesson material chunked into more manageable sets.

Folders, agendas and calendar tools may help a working adult stay organized and meet deadlines, and in cases in which writing by hand is painful, it might be recommended that someone with dyspraxia learn how to touch-type. Dyspraxia is a lifelong condition, but with a strategy program in place and access to the right accommodations, most adults can overcome the challenges they face and achieve their full potential at work or at school.

Did you know learning to touch-type can make you a better speller*?
Be the best you can be with TTRS!

Learn more

Are dyspraxia and autism related

Dyspraxia and autism

Dyspraxia, which in the past was referred to as “Clumsy Child Syndrome,” is a motor learning difficulty that can cause issues with fine and gross motor skills, social interaction, planning skills and coordination. While it is distinct from Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) many parents notice similar symptoms, including sensory processing issues. In some cases the two conditions can co-occur.

Research studies have found that dyspraxia is more likely to be reported amongst people with autism than in control groups; however, that does not necessarily imply a causal relationship. For parents struggling to understand their child’s diagnosis, it can help to take a closer look at the similarities and differences between the two.

Education Subscription

Touch-typing can support spelling skills and help students build confidence in and outside of the classroom

Learn more

What to expect for aphasia recovery time following a stroke

Aphasia recovery time following a stroke

One of the most common symptoms following a stroke is a disruption to language and communicative ability. This is a condition referred to as aphasia or dysphasia. The name aphasia implies a total loss of language, as compared to dysphasia, which is partial loss.

Nonetheless, the two terms are used somewhat interchangeably with dysphasia more common in Europe and the UK. Aphasia is a result of trauma to the brain, including when brain cells are deprived of oxygen or sustain damage due to internal bleeding. It can result in difficulty finding and retrieving words, producing intelligible speech, negotiating syntax (grammar), and sometimes even understanding what other people are saying.

Signs of a gifted child in the classroom

7 Signs of a gifted child

Giftedness is often defined as an intellectual ability linked to an IQ score of 130 or over. However, not all gifted children excel in an academic area. Some may display high creative, artistic, musical and/or leadership abilities relative to their peers.

Giftedness can be focused in one skill, or it may be more general. It's also important for parents and educators to understand that it can sometimes come with specific learning differences that impact on performance at school. In these situations it's important to help a child develop their talents while also overcoming any challenges posed by the SpLDs.

In some cases, it may be appropriate for the child to attend a special program or a school specifically for gifted children, so they have ample opportunities for advancement in a classroom environment that is sensitive to their needs and provides adequate stimulation. With access to the right resources and emotional and academic support, every gifted child can achieve their full potential at school.

Dysarthria vs. Aphasia

Dysarthria vs. aphasia

While both dysarthria and aphasia can affect an individual’s ability to produce fluent and intelligible speech, they have very different causes. Dysarthria is an umbrella term used for disorders that impact the muscles used in speaking, including the lips, tongue, throat, vocal cords and diaphragm.

It causes a wide range of symptoms including breathy and nasal speech, drooling, uneven starts and stops, irregular volume, intonation and emphasis, and unclear articulation of words. Unlike brain-based conditions, language comprehension skills are typically not affected. On the other hand, aphasia is the result of injury to the brain. It has to do with understanding and producing language and symptoms will depend on the location and severity of the brain damage.

Some kinds of stroke therapy can be done at home

Stroke therapy at home

According to the Stroke Association in the United Kingdom and the American Stroke Association, there are over 8.2 million stroke survivors in the UK and the US. Many of these individuals undertake daily rehab activities in their own homes, either independently, or with the help of a friend, family carer or a trained specialist.

Stroke rehabilitation is many things including physical treatments that aim to improve gross and fine motor skills, language drills to restore communicative abilities, cognitive training to strengthen memory, occupational therapy to help with the performance of everyday tasks, and even emotional therapy to deal with any issues of depression or isolation that arise in the aftermath of a stroke.