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Currently submitted to: JMIR Rehabilitation and Assistive Technologies

Date Submitted: May 6, 2020
(closed for review but you can still tweet)

Warning: This is an author submission that is not peer-reviewed or edited. Preprints - unless they show as "accepted" - should not be relied on to guide clinical practice or health-related behavior and should not be reported in news media as established information.

Alternative and Augmentative Communication Technologies to Support Adults with Mild Intellectual Disabilities during Clinical Consultations: A Scoping Review

  • Ryan Colin Gibson; 
  • Matt-Mouley Bouamrane; 
  • Mark D. Dunlop; 



People with intellectual disabilities (ID) face significant communication barriers when accessing healthcare services. They often find it difficult to identify and describe conditions in a clear enough manner to support practitioners in making an accurate diagnosis. In addition, medical professionals tend to be undereducated on the needs of people with ID, which may result in the employment of consultation techniques that are inappropriate to the skills of their patients.


To identify and synthesize the literature on Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) technologies used to support adults with mild ID during the exchange of information with medical practitioners.


A scoping review of studies published in English, describing the technologies used to promote communication with patients with mild ID during medical consultations. The databases searched were PubMed; ACM Digital Library; and Google Scholar. A qualitative framework-based approach was used to synthesize the data and discern key recurring themes across the identified literature.


: Of the n=1557 articles screened, n=15 met our search inclusion criteria. The bulk of the communication aids employed focused on low-tech solutions, including: patient passports; notes based prompts; Talking Mats™; Health Diaries; and Easy Read information sheets. Their potential influence on current practice ranged from advancing medical professionals’ knowledge of the health and communication needs of people with ID, to increasing interagency collaboration and health promotion activities. Major barriers to the implementation of low-tech aids centered on a lack of portability and increased efforts in maintenance. Just three studies explored the use of mobile applications to promote communication. Their findings indicated that high-tech solutions offer greater customization regarding the accessibility and healthcare needs of people with ID.


AAC technologies have the potential to increase the quality of care being provided to patients with mild ID. Yet greater emphasis must be placed on the use of quantitative evaluation methods to discern the true benefits of such aids. Further research should be conducted into the use of high-tech devices, with researchers describing their study protocols in depth to promote replication and generalizability.


Please cite as:

Gibson RC, Bouamrane M, Dunlop MD

Alternative and Augmentative Communication Technologies to Support Adults with Mild Intellectual Disabilities during Clinical Consultations: A Scoping Review

JMIR Preprints. 06/05/2020:19925


Per the author's request the PDF is not available.