Communication methods

We all use different forms of communication. Imagine yourself in a noisy bar or pub. Your friend gets up to get a drink at the bar on the other side of the room. While he is there, you decide you would like a drink, too. If it is too noisy to call him, you might wave your hand to get his attention. Once he sees you, you might make a gesture of drinking, or you might hold up your empty glass and point to it. Your friend may nod and then indicate ‘What kind of drink do you want?’ by turning his palms up, raising his hands and using a quizzical facial expression. If you see a poster on the wall that shows your preferred drink, you might point to the poster. Alternatively, you might pick up and show, or point to someone else’s drink, to indicate you would like the same thing. You might point to your friend to indicate the same as whatever he is getting. If you don’t really care, you might use a body gesture and facial expression with your hands moving palms facing up. You have just used a series of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) forms. Whenever something constrains the effectiveness of our spoken language we will use an augmentative form. Therefore the use of AAC is a question of degree rather than difference.

Four factors influence this: our current abilities, the environment, the person we are communicating with, and accepted social mores. When you have laryngitis, you might write on a pad of paper, because you are temporarily unable to use your speech. With someone who is not nearby, you may send a text or an email. If you are speaking with someone who doesn’t speak your language, you may point to a map, pictures or a travel phrase book. You may use a facial expression or gesture to communicate with someone across the room, during a class or service.

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