Communication is necessary for teaching, learning, personal well-being, and to be a productive member of society. Being able to express one's thoughts is equally as important as understanding others.

For those students who have hearing or speaking disabilities, there are several assistive technology devices that can provide an opportunity to communicate. These devices can range signifiantly from temporary to permanent, inexpensive to expensive, and low-tech to high-tech. The two types of communication devices are hearing assistive technology, which helps students who are hard of hearing, and augmentative communication, which aids those who cannot speak.
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Hearing Issues
Students who are deaf or hard of hearing often need technology to gain access for communication.
Being deaf or hard of hearing are distinctively different, as discussed below:

1. Deaf - Students who are deaf usually communicate through sign languge because they have minimal
or no hearing. They are generally not proficient in speaking.
2. Hard of hearing - Students who are hard of hearing tend to understand speech through a combination
of reading lips and hearing aids. They usually can communicate verbally so that others understand them,
although they often have speech problems.

Speaking Problems
Students who have difficulty speaking usually need technology to communicate with others. Following are some of the reasons why students are unable to speak:

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1. Autism - developmental disorder
2. Cerebral Palsy - brain and nervous system disorder
3. Dysarthria- nerve/muscle impairment
4. Aphasia - processing disorder (example: due to stroke)
5. Apraxia - processing disorder/organization (example: children on autism spectrum)
6. Selective Mutism - social anxiety disorder
While there are many assistive technology choices for communication, it is essential that the most appropriate device is chosen. The team who assesses the student's needs and helps to select the augmentative device includes a speech langauge pathologist, the student, teacher, and parents. Other therapists may be involved as well. It is important to keep in mind that assistive technology devices are one part of a communication plan. Devices used should be evaluated often, and any device being used requires teacher, student and parent training, as well as regular follow-up care.

There are three levels of assistive technology for students with communication disabilities:
1. Low tech. These devices are generally inexpensive and straightforward.
sign language
communication boards
Tech Talk from Mayer Johnson
Chatbox by Saltillo
communication board
communication board

2. Mid-tech. These devices are electronic, but they are not as expensive or complicated as high-tech devices.
AlphaTalker and SideKick by Prentke-Romich
Hand held Voice from Mayer-Johnson
Hearing Aids
Macaw by Zygo Industries
types of hearing aids
types of hearing aids

3. High tech. These devices are usually based on computer technology, are more costly than low-tech and mid-tech devices, and involve training or medical treatment.
Cochlear Implants
Dynavox and Dynamite by Sentient Systems
Palm 3
DeltaTalker by Prenke-Romich

Dell, A. G. (2011). Assistive Technology in the Classroom. Pearson.
Simpson, C. G., McBride, R., Spencer, V. G., Lowdermilk, J., & Lynch, S. (2009). Assistive Technology: Supporting Learners in Inclusive Classrooms. Kappa Delta Pi Record, 45(4), 172-175. Sze, S. (2004). A Literature Review: An Investigation of Various Types of Assistive Technology (AT)
Images of DeltaTalker, communication process, question mark, communication board and hearing aids from