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Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Overview:

AAC includes all forms of communication other than oral speech such as sign, picture communication boards, and electronic devices.  Individuals who have severe expressive language delays or disorders may rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or as an alternative to speech.  Individuals who may be candidates for AAC include those diagnosed with autism, intellectual disability, developmental delay, cerebral palsy, stroke, and other developmental or acquired neurological conditions. AAC has been shown to increase functional communication and expression and improve quality of life.   The development and selection of an AAC system is highly individualized and requires looking at the person’s communication and environmental needs, current abilities, and skill levels.

Assessment:

AAC assessment involves gathering information about the individual so as to make informed decisions about the person’s current communication abilities and needs, the AAC modalities (e.g., sign and electronic equipment) that appear to best meet the needs and skills levels of the AAC user, and recommendations on how to provide instruction regarding the use of AAC techniques.  AAC assessment involves the input of a team of individuals including the AAC user, family, teachers, co-workers, assistants, and professionals with expertise in motor skills and disorders.

Treatment:

AAC treatment objectives are specific to the individual and disorder.  In general, the focus of AAC treatment is to increase the individual’s ability to use AAC forms of communication for functional communication and interaction.  The AAC system may serve as a temporary communication system while speech improves, or as a more permanent communication solution. Often treatment includes appropriate communication strategies for those who communicate with the AAC user.   In some individuals, a focus of treatment is on using AAC to facilitate and develop language along with speech.