Augmentative and Alternative Communication Aids for LEMS Patients

Emily Malcolm, PhD avatar

by Emily Malcolm, PhD |

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Lambert-Eaton myasthenic syndrome (LEMS) is an autoimmune disease affecting the nervous system. Patients with LEMS may have difficulty speaking due to weakness in the jaw, throat, and tongue muscles. Speech therapists can help patients develop an exercise routine to strengthen affected muscles and ease communication. In some cases, patients may also need communication aids.

What are communication aids?

Communication aids are devices that help with communication. They can be as sophisticated as a specialized device linked to a computer, or as simple as a pack of communication cards or a pad of paper and pencil.

Text-to-speech interfaces

There are now programs and applications (apps) for most cellphones and computers that have a text-to-speech interface allowing patients to type what they want to say and the device speaks for them. The voices are programmed from a number of options and don’t need to sound robotic. Medical companies also have specialized text-to-speech devices that may be covered by insurance.

Symbol-to-speech devices

Symbol-to-speech devices use a symbol to represent a word or idea. Patients press the symbol, and the device speaks a set phrase. These may also be covered by insurance.

How do I obtain a communication aid?

If you feel you would benefit from a communication aid, discuss with your physician and speech therapist. They will help determine which type of device or system may be the most effective and convenient for you and your specific needs and to guide you on the steps to obtain one.


Last updated: Jan. 27, 2020


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