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Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC)

What is AAC or Augmentative Alternative Communication?

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

Augmentative vs. Alternative 

Augmentative refers to using a device to supplement existing speech. 

Alternative refers to using a system for nonexistent or nonfunctional speech. 

What does AAC look like? 

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. 

Who uses AAC?

Generally there are two populations. 

Temporary users (usually individuals with injuries, like a Traumatic Brain Injury, stroke, ALS, etc.) 

Permanent users (usually individuals with congenital disorders like Autism, Cerebral Palsy, severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech). 

How do people communicate?

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” that aren’t necessarily words

What can an AAC user say? Really anything! Vocabulary is an important aspect of AAC. A speech therapist should teach different types of vocabulary to an AAC user. 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. 

 Resources: Practical AAC, speech musings, beautiful speech life, speech room news, bilingual speechie, the Autism Helper, ASHA 

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