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Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC)

An area of practice that supplements or compensates for impairments in speech-language production and/or comprehension. Includes a variety of techniques such as: tangible objects, assistive technology, and speech-generating devices.

What is Augmentative-Alternative Communication (AAC)?

“The American Speech-Language-hearing Association defines Augmentative and Alternative communication (AAC) as an area of clinical practice that addresses the needs of individuals with significant and complex communication disabilities characterized by impairments in speech-language production and/or comprehension, including spoken and written modes of communication,” (Beukelman & Light, 2020).

Who Uses AAC?

There is no one “specific” type of individual that relies on AAC to communicate. Users can be anyone that needs support to communicate effectively, whether temporarily or permanently.

Common causes of severe communication impairments include developmental disorders such as Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), severe intellectual developmental disability, or acquired medical conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and brain injury.

What Are the Different Types of AAC?

There are a wide variety of AAC systems available, including both unaided and aided options.

Unaided options include those that do not require equipment including facial expressions, body language, gestures, vocalizations/verbalizations, sign language.

Aided options come in a variety of systems and devices. These options can be as simple as a symbol for choosing “yes” and “no” or as high-tech as specialized speech software used on a tablet/laptop.

AAC Myths

The following graphic from “Augmentative Communication and Early Intervention:

Myths and Realities” explains the many myths that are associated with the use of AAC and how they are proven to be false.

MYTH REALITY
AAC is a last resort in speech language intervention AAC should be used to prevent communication failure before it happens, not after all else fails.
AAC hinders or stops speech development Studies show that AAC does not prevent, and may even chance speech development
Children must have a certain set of skills to be able to benefit from AAC. Children may not be able to demonstrate all their skills without first having a means of communication.
Speech-generating AAC devices are only for children with intact cognition. Speech-generating AAC devices can be as simple as a single switch or button.
Children have to be a certain age to benefit from AAC. Success with AAC use does not depend on age.
Children must go through a hierarchy of learning how symbols represent meaning, starting with objects and progressing to written words. In early language development have not established representations of meaning yet, so they can make new associations between objects and other symbols.

How Can I Support My Loved One at Home?

AAC Learning Center Moodle – “The AAC Learning Center provides free educational modules on AAC. The modules are designed to be used by current and future AAC team members, including pre-service and in-service speech language pathologists, special education teachers, general education teachers, and occupational therapists, as well as
family members of people who use AAC.”

This is an amazing resource that provides in-depth information about AAC and how to begin intervention to improve communication for the individual and their loved ones!

AAC Learning Center

Resources for Families

Family Support Groups – AAC Community

ASHA’s Introduction to AAC – Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Information Regarding Funding/Coverage of Devices

References

Beukelman, D. R., & Light, J. C. (2020). Augmentative & Alternative Communication: Supporting Children and adults with complex communication needs (5th ed.). Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc.

Romski, M., & Sevcik, R. A. (2005). Augmentative Communication and Early Intervention: Myths and Realities. Infants and Young Children. Retrieved March 24, 2022, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/230852866_Augmentative_communication_and_early_intervention_Myths_and_realities