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Augmentative and Alternative Communication


Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) means all of the ways that someone communicates besides talking. People of all ages can use AAC if they have trouble with speech or language skills. Augmentative means to add to someone’s speech. Alternative means to be used instead of speech. Some people use AAC throughout their life. Others may use AAC only for a short time, like when they have surgery and can’t talk.


There are a lot of different types of AAC. No-tech and low-tech options include things like

  • gestures and facial expressions,

  • writing,

  • drawing,

  • spelling words by pointing to letters, and

  • pointing to photos, pictures, or written words.


High-tech options include things like

  • using an app on an iPad or tablet to communicate and

  • using a computer with a “voice," sometimes called a speech-generating device.


A person may use different types of AAC because there are many ways that we all communicate. An AAC system means all of the tools of this type that a person uses.


At Springboard Pediatric Therapy Center, our clinicians assess clients for appropriate AAC systems to enhance their functional communication. Our therapists have experience with no-tech, low-tech, and high-tech AAC systems. 


Signs your child may benefit from an AAC system:

  • Limited verbal communication

  • Highly unintelligible speech

  • Complex communication needs

  • Increased physical communication such as biting, kicking, meltdowns 



Myths about AAC

Myth: AAC is a “last resort” in speech-language intervention.

Fact: The use of AAC interventions should not be contingent on failure to develop speech skills or considered a last resort because AAC can play many roles in early communication development. (Cress & Marvin, 2003; Reichle, Buekelman & Light, 2002)


Myth: AAC hinders or stops further speech development.

Fact: For very young children, the use of AAC does not appear to hinder speech development (Cress, 2003). In fact, it may enhance the development of spoken communication, which should be a simultaneous goal for intervention. (Romski, 2005)


Myth: Speech-generating AAC devices are only for children with intact cognition.

Fact: The technological developments in AAC devices have made a broad range of options available. There are now many choices of AAC devices that speak, from simple technology (like single switches) to complex systems, that permit access to a variety of language and literacy skills. (Romski, 2005)


Myth: AAC is only for children who are nonverbal.

Fact: AAC is for any patient who does not have reliable verbal speech. If your patient does not have effective expressive communication, consider AAC.


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