Communication Systems

There are many types of alternative communication systems. Many people are familiar with the most common system, sign language.  Another method has been developed using line drawings to symbolize words.  These symbols are drawn on individual cards, which can be handed to the "listener," or placed on a static communication board, and the desired words are indicated by pointing to or looking at the given symbol.  The purpose of an alternative communication system is to empower a non-verbal individual to make requests and communicate their thoughts and feelings, thereby becoming more independent and self-sufficient.

The major benefit of these visual systems is their ease of use.  A non-verbal individual can quickly learn to use this method, and the symbols are readily understood by the person with whom they are communicating.  These symbols can be hand drawn, or created using a computer program such as Boardmaker by Mayer-Johnson.

Yeni learning to use an eye-gaze system with her mother
at a Hope Haven wheelchair distribution
Each system is specifically designed to meet the unique needs of the individual as well as the demands of the environment in which they live.  The level of complexity can be increased as the person becomes more proficient in the use of the system. At times, as in the case of an individual with autism, the person will begin speaking the word as they use the symbol to communicate. Others will, since the symbol is always paired with the written word, will begin to read, even though they cannot form the word orally.