What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

Posted by

Tanya Keller

Time to read

3 minutes
What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or use gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write.  AAC includes unaided and aided communication.  Unaided communication includes methods of communication that rely on a person’s body to communicate including facial expressions, gestures, body movements, vocalizations, verbalizations, sign language and eye gaze.  Aided communication requires tools or equipment that are not part of a users body, such as paper based communication systems,  and written communication as well as high tech speech generating devices with voice output.

Who can benefit from AAC?

People who can not effectively use speech to say what they want, when they want, and how they want, benefit from other means of communication. Individuals may be nonverbal, and use AAC as an alternative to speech, or they may have speech but are unintelligible, and use AAC to augment their communication. This can include, but is not limited to:

  • Children with neurological and genetic disorders including but not limited to Rett Syndrome, FoxG1, Angelman Syndrome, Pura Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, Cornelia de Lange Syndrome, Cri du Chat and other rare genetic diagnoses
  • Children who have global developmental delays
  • Children with multiple disabilities who do not have a formal diagnosis
  • Young children who are not effectively communicating due to significantly reduced expressive communication skills
  • Children with Autism
  • Children who have significantly reduced intelligibility due to motor speech and severe phonological disorders and could benefit from AAC to augment speech
  • Children who use a variety of access methods, including direct selection (directly touching the screen with a finger), eye gaze and switches

Characteristics of a good AAC system:

  • Has a robust vocabulary made up of verbs, descriptors, pronouns, prepositions, question words and nouns
  • Goes beyond choice making to allow people to communicate for a range of communicative functions including but not limited to: protesting, refusal, self-advocating, commenting, asking questions, requesting assistance, requesting actions and objects, sharing information, telling jokes, interacting with peers
  • Considers the needs now, and also needs in the future, having enough language to allow communication partners to model language beyond what a person is expressing
  • Is accessible via an access method that allows a person to communicate using a robust vocabulary system.  this may include direct selection (use of an isolated point to access the system), scanning, head pointer or eye gaze



What skills does my child need to demonstrate in order to be a candidate for AAC?  Aren’t there some prerequisite skills need?


NO!!!!  This is summed up by one of our favorite memes….

from Rachael M. Langley, MA, CCC-SLP from Rachael M. Langley, MA, CCC-SLP

How do I get my child started with AAC?

Call our office at 619.578.2232 and our staff will connect you with our AAC Coordinator, who will discuss your child and his/her needs with you, as well as the next best steps to take.  This may be an AAC assessment, or suggestion for diagnostic therapy in order to have some time to determine the appropriate system for your child.

Our staff will then send you our intake packet and will also help you navigate the insurance and billing process.