Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

What is AAC?

AAC stands for augmentative/alternative communication and describes any mode of communication that is not speaking with your mouth. This may involve pointing to or exchanging pictures, using sign language, using an AAC device that will speak a message when the user pushes a button, or many other forms of communication.

Who Uses AAC?

Augmentative and alternative communication is helpful for anyone who has thoughts to communicate but is unable to speak them using his/her own voice. This includes individuals with diagnoses such as late talker, autism, childhood apraxia of speech, down syndrome, muscle disorders, or any other diagnosis that can cause a child to be unable to speak his thoughts. AAC isn’t right for every child with these diagnoses but it is definitely something worth trying. Every child has the right to be given a voice.

Does Using AAC Prevent a Child from Speaking?

After reviewing all of the current research on augmentative and alternative communication in 2006, Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., et al. made the following statement about using AAC :

“The present research review provides important preliminary evidence that augmentative and alternative communication interventions do not inhibit speech production; instead, AAC may also support speech production”

What Are the Different Types of AAC?

  • Sign Language :
  • Picture Communication Exchange System (PECS) :
  • Pictures or Simple Communication Boards :
  • High and Low Tech AAC Systems : Low tech AAC systems can include things like picture boards or simple electronic devices that help a child talk. High tech augmentative and alternative communication includes the more sophisticated devices that make heavy use of technology. These are often computer or tablet-like devices where you push a button on a screen and it will either speak a message or open up more choices (like opening a file with many foods when you push “eat”). These devices can cost thousands of dollars but often insurance will cover part of the cost.
  • AAC Apps : If you have a tablet device or smart phone like an iPad or iPhone, you can download AAC apps that will turn your phone or tablet into a high tech AAC device. Although these apps can cost hundreds of dollars, they are much more reasonably-priced than their dedicated-device counterparts.

Can AAC Help a Child with Autism?

Many children with autism have been helped by using augmentative and alternative communication, especially young children who are non-verbal.

How Can AAC Help With Behavior Problems?

If your child is demonstrating inappropriate behaviors due to frustration from lack of communication, AAC can be a wonderful option. This podcast will talk about different options to alleviate behavior problems with communication-delayed children.