Verbal communication is one of the troubles faced by some individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) as they are unable to convey their wants and needs.\r\n\r\nThis inability to speak will significantly affect a person\u2019s quality of life, as well as their learning ability and day-to-day interactions with others.\r\n\r\nFurthermore, they may feel frustrated and helpless over being unable to express themselves, possibly leading to behavioural problems. \r\n\r\nMany children with ASD or other developmental issues have problems with speech development, said Dr Susheel Kaur Dhillon, who is a senior lecturer and speech language pathologist at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia\u2019s Faculty of Health Sciences.\r\n\r\nTo help the child develop language skills, conventional speech therapy is first carried out. However if the prognosis of a child developing speech is poor, regardless of age, then Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) aid will be introduced.\r\n\r\n\r\nTechnology to Help with Speech\r\nAAC is not a new concept, as it has long been developed to help non-verbal individuals express themselves. There are low tech and high tech AACs, with common low tech AACs being basic gestures, sign language, and using pictures, according to The Star.\r\n\r\nHigh tech AACs are not exactly new either. Along with the development of microprocessor technology, small AAC companies have been building dedicated AAC systems that use synthesised speech.\r\n\r\nThese systems were often heavy, unwieldy, and costly. One such example is the speech-generating device (SGD) or voice output communication aid used by the late Stephen Hawkins.\r\n\r\nHowever, with the development of touchscreen mobile devices and apps, high tech AAC have become more and more accessible to the wider populace. \r\n\r\nUsage of such assistive tech is increasing, but it still requires the guidance of speech therapists. A speech therapist will usually assess their clients and decide on the most suitable AAC to use, depending on the person\u2019s abilities, support, and family situation.\r\n\r\nThat said, the biggest challenge that therapists face when using AAC is actually the concern of parents. There tends to be worries from parents that their children will become dependent on AAC, and not develop speech. This even applies to basic low tech AACs like sign language and visual cards.\r\n\r\nHowever, there is no reason for parents to fear. Much research has proven that there are no negative effects of AAC and it certainly will not stop the child from speaking, said Dr Susheel. In fact, it is the opposite as the positive effect of such assistive tech is that the child might actually start speaking.\r\n\r\nFor more information about parenting and family, please visit Motherhood.com.my.