Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

What is AAC?

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a combination of all forms of communication (besides oral speech) that are used to convey thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. When we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write, we are using AAC.

People who have severe problems with speech or language rely on AAC for the replacement of nonfunctional speech or supplementation of existing speech. Picture and symbol communication boards and electronic devices are special augmentative aids that are available in helping people express themselves. This may result in better social interactions, improved school performance, and an increase of feelings of self-worth.

AAC aids and devices are an add-on used to enhance communication; therefore, if users are able to do so, they should not stop using speech.

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What are the types of AAC Systems?

There are options for children or adults who cannot use speech for effective communication in all situations.

  • Unaided Communication Systems – Rely on the user’s body (such as gestures, body language, and/or sign language) to convey messages.
  • Aided Communication Systems – Require the use of tools or equipment as well as the user’s body. Aided communication can come from a variety of methods, from paper and pencil to communication books or boards to electronic and/or computerized devices such as speech generating devices or SGD’s that produce voice output and/or written output. Electronic communication aids allow the user to create messages by using picture symbols, letters, and/or words. Some devices can be programmed to produce alternate spoken languages.To contact a speech-language pathologist, visit ASHA’s Find a Professional.

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