Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Communication, AAC and Speech Therapy

When children are young, they communicate mainly wants and needs. As they get older, children begin communicating for social closeness and relationships. We communicate for a variety of functions.  This changes depending on the environment and time in a child’s life.

  • We need to communicate our wants and needs by requesting objects or actions (I want milk, Help!)
  • We exchange information by answering questions or stating opinions (I like that!, Yes!)
  • We also communicate to initiate and maintain relationships (Hello!, My turn, I’m sad)

Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) can be used for all of the ways we can express our thoughts, ideas, emotions and feelings.

What is AAC?

Speech-Language Pathologists provide treatment to build these skills for kids have challenges communicating.  One intervention that can be helpful involves using  AAC  systems.  There are two different types of AAC:

Unaided- using our body to convey messages including gestures, facial expressions, affect and sign language

Aided- using technology, communication books, symbols,  language applications or speech-generating devices

The goals is for your child to achieve authentic and flexible communication! This means saying WHAT they want to say, WHEN they want to say it, HOW they want to say it, WHERE they want to say it!

source: Saltillo

Speech Therapy and AAC

It is always essential to consider family goals and the environment in which these systems will be used to ensure success.Your speech-language pathologist will work with your child to trial different language systems and access methods as well as specific AAC devices. They will also work with vendors and insurance companies to explore funding.  Areas that will be important to assess are:

  1. Total communication abilities: How does your child currently communicate wants, needs, feelings and emotions?
  • Eye contact and eye gaze
  • Body movements
  • Vocalizations
  • Reaching or pointing
  • Words and phrases
  • Signs
  • Picture symbols

2. Motor abilities: How will your child access a communication system?

  • Touch screen
  • Mouse
  • Eye gaze
  • Switch
  • Auditory scanning

 AAC users need a lot of practice, exposure and time. In fact, research shows that AAC users have much fewer opportunities to communicate and some research indicates that it would take 701 more years of language exposure to have the same immersed experience as oral language peers!

Information adapted from: Achieving Authentic Communication: Implementation Toolkit 




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