What is AAC
What is AAC or Augmentative and Alternative Communication?
- Wave to a friend across the room
- Write on a note
- Point when giving directions
In all of these examples, people are communicating without speaking. They are communicating using an AAC method. Basically, AAC is any method of communication that is used in addition to or instead of speech. Augmentative means “in addition to.” Alternative means “instead of.” All people, even those who speak, use different forms of AAC every day. These forms include gestures, words pictures, facial expression, body language, writing and drawing.
When an individual has significant difficulties with communication in one or more environments, use of AAC tools and techniques becomes even more important. In addition to non-verbal communication like gestures and facial expression, individuals should also use the following types of AAC:
Low-Tech or Soft-tech AAC
When people talk about Low-tech or Soft-tech AAC they mean things like:
- Communication books
- printed communication boards, with symbols or letters
- symbols on things in your environment such as bathroom, flush buttons etc
Varying number of messages can be represented by symbols, objects, photos, line drawings, written words or letters
High technology AAC
When people talk about High-tech AAC they mean things like:
- Dedicated communication devices that require a charge and have voice output (digitized or synthesized)
- Software or apps running on a computer, iPad or other device that have voice output
Varying number of messages can be represented by symbols, objects, photos, line drawings, written words or letters here as well.
Who can use AAC?
Based on our initial definition of AAC as something all of us use in our day-to-day lives, we know that AAC is something that can be used by every person in every environment—home, work, school, community. AAC is of benefit regardless of age, communication or cognitive ability level. It provides a means of expressing wants, needs, and ideas decreasing frustration and isolation. Having a way to communicate can help build communication and language skills, increase interaction with family and friends and participation in school, community events and work. When an individual has difficulty successfully communicating in one or more environments, some form of AAC should be provided to meet their needs. The specific AAC tools and techniques should be identified through an augmentative communication evaluation. Check with your Speech-Language Pathologist or find one through www.slplocator.com.
Questions to ask when considering AAC
- Does the individual have difficulty expressing their wants, needs or thoughts in one or more environments?
- Do you or others need to have background knowledge or ask multiple questions to understand what that person is saying?
- Does the individual become frustrated or give up when attempting to communicate?
- Does the individual understand more than they are able to express?
If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, discuss AAC with a Speech-Language Pathologist.