Cali Kids Speech Therapy

The Basics of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

What is AAC?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to additional methods of communication besides verbal speech. These methods can be augmentative, to supplement speech, or alternative, to be used in place of speech.

AAC comes in no-tech, low-tech, mid-tech and high-tech forms.

  • No-tech AAC involves using the body to communicate. This can be seen through gestures such as nodding, pointing and waving, as well as other body movements such as blinking, eye movements or moving a limb in a certain way to communicate. An example of no-tech AAC use is if a child consistently looks up to communicate “yes.”
  • Low-tech AAC refers to the use of non-electronic materials to communicate, such as using a pen to write or pointing to pictures/letters on picture boards, alphabet boards or in communication books. If a child hands a partner a picture of a cookie to indicate that they are hungry, they are using low-tech AAC to communicate their needs.
  • Mid-tech AAC entails using electronic devices with simple functions to communicate a limited set of messages. For example, voice-output switches such as a BIGmack (for single messages) or GoTalk (for multiple messages) can be used to produce pre-programmed messages.
  • High-tech AAC involves the use of computers, tablets or iPads with specific communication software/applications. These devices, often known as speech-generating devices, can provide its users access to robust language systems, which gives them the opportunity to communicate an unlimited number of messages through electronic voice output. Speech-generating devices can be accessed in a variety of ways based on a person’s physical abilities such as by touching the screen with a body part (e.g. finger, hand), monitoring eye movements using eye-tracking technology, or by pushing switches (external buttons) that are connected to the device.
Who needs AAC?

AAC can be beneficial to anyone who has difficulty communicating using speech alone. This may be due to a variety of diagnoses such as Autism Spectrum Disorder, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Childhood Apraxia of Speech, genetic conditions, brain injury and more. When a child is provided access to AAC, they have the opportunity to communicate their thoughts and ideas to people who may not otherwise be able to understand them, which tends to decrease their overall frustration and increases their ability to connect with others.

How can I get an AAC system?

There are many AAC systems available on the market. We recommend working with a speech-language pathologist to identify the best AAC system for your child’s specific skills and needs. It is important to note that not all speech therapists have experience conducting AAC evaluations. Fortunately, we at Cali Kids Speech Therapy have specialized experience providing comprehensive AAC evaluations and evidence-based AAC therapy to support your child’s communication skills. Schedule a complimentary consultation to begin your child’s AAC journey today.

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