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Speech, Occupational, Physical Therapy and Social Work

Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC)

What is AAC or Augmentative Alternative Communication?

AAC is a term used to describe the systems and devices used by people that have limited verbal skills or are nonverbal.

Augmentative Communication vs. Alternative Communication

Augmentative Communication: when a device is used to supplement, or in addition to, existing speech. 

Alternative Communication: when a device is used in place of speech. Candidates for alternative communication devices typically do not have the ability to communicate verbally.

Describe an AAC Device…

There are many kinds of AAC devices! Some of these include: an ipad or a tablet, a Speech Generating Device (SGD), a board, eye gaze, picture symbols or a picture book. Anything that assists or enables communication can be considered AAC.

Who uses AAC?

Generally there are two groups of people that use AAC devices:

Temporary Users: individuals with injuries, like a Traumatic Brain Injury, stroke, ALS, etc. Devices are used temporarily, until communication skills are restored through healing and rehabilitation. 

Long Term Users: individuals with congenital disorders or disabilities (i.e. Autism, Cerebral Palsy, severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech) that will require long term communication assistance. 

How do people communicate using AAC?

There are 3 general categories for AAC: high tech, low tech and no tech. 

High Tech AAC: an ipad or tablet, a device that has pre-recorded messages, software that is “dynamic” meaning it can change based on the users needs.  

Low Tech AAC: pictures, writing, drawing, communication boards or books. The display is “static” meaning it does not change. 

 No Tech AAC: gestures, signs / sign language, facial expressions, body language, and making sounds or “vocalizations.”

What can an AAC user say? Absolutely anything! Access to vocabulary is an important aspect of AAC. A speech therapist should teach, and program devices for access to different types of vocabulary. The basic types of vocabulary are Core and Fringe. 

Core vocabulary are everyday words that people use like basic nouns, pronouns, verbs, and question words. 

Fringe vocabulary are words that are specific to an activity, like Disney princess names or sports terminology. 

If you have questions about AAC devices or pediatric therapy services please don’t hesitate to reach out. Our team is happy to collaborate and make recommendations. 

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