What is Alternative and Augmentative Communication or "AAC"?

Alternative and Augmentative Communication, or AAC, is an umbrella terminology that consists of a variety of communication methods that are used to supplement the absence of verbal language. Put simply, it is just another way to talk.

What are some types of AAC?

There are two main types of AAC that are commonly used to communicate-unaided systems and aided systems. These two systems can be used independently or in conjunction with one other.

  • An unaided system means that no equipment is needed beyond one's own body. An example of unaided communication would be sign language.
  • An aided system is one that requires that use of tools or devices to communicate. These tools can range from high-tech to low-tech. Therapists in our clinic have been trained in variety of techniques ranging from low-tech to high-tech to best meet the needs of your child. We most often use the following:
    • Communication Boards
      • When using communication boards, we follow the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) protocol developed by Lori Frost, MS, CCC-SLP and Andy Bondy, Ph.D.
      • If this is the method of AAC that is best suited for your child, your child's treating speech therapist will provide you with all the resources you need to make it work.
      • For more information on this protocol and the use of communication boards, please visit, https://pecsusa.com/pecs/.
    • Speech Generating Devices
      • When using speech generating devices, we follow the Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP) protocol developed by John Halloran, MS, CCC-SLP and Cindy Halloran, OTR/L.
      • If this is the method of AAC that is best suited for your child, your child's treating speech therapist will provide you with all the resources needed for acquisition of this device and training in its use.
      • For more information on devices and the use of speech generating devices, please visit any of the following resources:

But isn't the goal for my child to talk?

Yes! We want you to know that the use of the device isn't the end of the road for learning verbal communication. However, an AAC device serves two major purposes. First, it allows your child to communicate with others utilizing an avenue that is appropriate for them in the short-term. This allows your child independence to communicate his or her wants, needs, and to engage socially. Secondly, it provides your child with continuous auditory feedback which promotes language learning and verbal use.

How do I get an AAC device for my child?

Your child's speech-language pathologist will walk you through the process of getting a personal device for your child. The therapist will first obtain a specific AAC evaluation, typically through Prentke Romich Company, to determine which device is appropriate for your child. Following the evaluation, we typically obtain a trial device for your child to use in a variety of environments to assess the child's success with the device and its overall appropriateness for your child. After confirming this is the proper device for your child, your primary speech-language pathologist will assist you in completing the necessary paperwork to get a personal device for your child.

Who is on my "team" if my child has uses AAC?

First and foremost, you are on your child's team. Your role is to ensure that your child always has access to his or her device and encourage its use in all environments. Your treating speech-language pathologist will provide your child with skilled intervention, likely using one of the techniques discussed above, to assist your child in learning and functionally using this new communication system. If available, your child's occupational and physical therapist will be consulted to discuss your child's fine motor and gross motor abilities and how they may impact his or her device use. Lastly, your child's primary care physician, as with all therapy services, signs off on your child's plan of care, device recommendation, and is kept up to date throughout the course of treatment.

Your speech-language pathologist will also provide guidance and training for you so that you can assist your child in using the device as home and other environments. There are also trainings held frequently in our area regarding the use of AAC devices. If your child is enrolled in school, his or her teachers and school therapists can also attend these trainings.