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Holland Bloorview clients (Maria, Luca, Gabriele, Clarke)
October is International AAC Awareness Month!

Holland Bloorview is spotlighting Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) for International AAC Awareness Month.

What is augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)?

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) describes various tools and strategies that can help people who are unable to rely on verbal speech alone to communicate. AAC tools can be unaided (e.g. signing, gestures, body language, facial expressions and partner strategies) and aided (e.g. communication books, speech-generating devices).

Communication and writing aids service (CWAS)

The communication and writing aids service (CWAS) at Holland Bloorview strives to follow best practices and build awareness of our clients’ communication abilities to enhance their independence and seamless integration into all aspects of their lives. We believe we can all work together to ensure that all individuals have “communication autonomy”.

Power of AAC - Client and family perspectives:

Maria: “I use AAC since I was very young. I remember myself using hand switches to control my computer when I was about four years old. It was very hard to do, so I started to use Hummer Switch. At first, it wasn’t easy; a lot of practice was needed, but now I can easily do it. I use a unique computer system that is designed for me by CWAS team and I control it with a Hummer switch. My computer system helps me communicate with people and express myself. Using my system I can write, type what I want to say, and do all my work at school. I can control different applications like Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Paint, e-mail, Internet browser, Instagram. I can play music on my computer. I played percussion instruments using my computer in my elementary school orchestra and my dream is to play in my high school orchestra. I like to write stories, create presentations, and draw pictures using my computer. I can write e-mails. I can use my computer for almost everything! I like to browse the Internet, use Instagram, watch my favourite YouTube and Netflix channels, play and listen to music.”


Luca’s parents: “Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) department has been working with Luca since his accident in 2014. The goal was to find a way to help Luca communicate independently. Over the years we have evolved in the type of tech and services the AAC was able to provide. We have introduced low tech options like the cue cards and picture boards and a series of button options, as well as high tech, helping us program a Dynavox with Eye-gaze that was donated to us and now working with us to get Luca a NeuroNode to tie all the things he has learned with the low-tech and high-tech combined over the years into one super high tech solution!”

Impact of COVID-19: Client’s perspectives:

The current COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly affected us all. For some of the AAC users we support, they have shared their perspectives of this pandemic experience:

Gabriele: “I didn’t get to see my Bubba and Jane for a long time.”


Clarke: “He is sad because he cannot get to touch or play with his friends like how he used to before. He is happy that he can be home before with his mom and dad more often as he was in online school.”

Luca’s parents: “COVID-19 has defiantly changed the way Luca progressing as the regular in-home and office visits came to a halt. It has been wonderful that the AAC was able to provide these technologies for Luca at home as we have been working with him daily to keep improving on his communication.”

Maria: “My computer and Hummer Switch helped me a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic! A LOT! I just continued to study remotely, I was able to communicate and attend classes using Zoom and Google Meets, and I even could attend virtual camps. I had a lot of fun there! I am very thankful for having my amazing and fantastic communication system!”