What is AAC(Augmentative and Alternative Communication)? : A Detailed View

Alternative and Augmentative communication devices have proven to have positive effects on people with communication deficits. What is AAC?  And how can AAC systems such as communication boards and speech generating devices (SGDs) help people with communication and language difficulties? Read on to find out more:

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a term referring to all communication other than natural speech. This includes communication methods that supplement and substitute the natural speech and language of individuals. For people with communication difficulties and comprehension challenges, AAC devices are a way to express their feelings, opinions, needs, and wants.

Types of AAC

Types of AAC

Unaided 
There is no equipment involved. Communication generally happens through sign language, vocalizations, gestures, body language, and facial expressions.

Sign Language - no tech AAC

Aided 
Aided systems involve users communicating using external tools. The tools can be further classified into low-tech and high-tech AAC systems.

Low Tech
The use of simple tools such as a picture board falls under the low-tech category. These tools do not require electric power or electronic components for their functioning. The user’s method of conveying a message through the communication boards or books largely depends on their motor skills and physical abilities.

Communication book - low-tech AAC system
Communication book

You can download Avaz’s low tech communication boards here.

        High Tech 
This comprises strategies involving the use of electronics and other technologies. This includes computers, speech-generating devices, and tablets. A communication app for iPad or Android with pictures and text is an example of high-tech system.

High Tech AAC User

People with complex communication needs can benefit from using multiple communication modalities. While we want to encourage the use of robust AAC devices to support a communicator’s progress, all modes of communication must be acknowledged to motivate communication.

The Need for Augmentative and Alternative Communication

People with complex communication needs may struggle to make themselves heard and understood.

Making friends and participating in school can be difficult for individuals with communication deficits. Their struggle to interact with peers can cause poor self-esteem and even lead to a life of exclusion and loneliness.

Their preferences are often taken for granted and intentions are second-guessed. This results in them not having agency and a sense of control.

Lack of communication can prevent individuals from leading fulfilling lives and from realizing their full potential.

AAC gives individuals with communication challenges the means to express their thoughts and interact with those around them. Augmentative and Alternative Communication builds choice making in individuals and sets them up to live life to their fullest potential. With AAC, individuals can gain functional communication skills and develop their language abilities. AAC also allows communicators in the acquisition of literacy and increased societal participation.

Drewy - AAC user

Who can Benefit from AAC?

  • Children and adults with speech and intellectual disabilities – non-verbal, partially verbal and single word communicators.
  • Children and adults with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome, Rett Syndrome, PDD-NOS, Aphasia, Apraxia or any other condition that affects speech.
  • Adults with speech difficulties due to Throat Cancer, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Neurological Disorders
  • Children with delayed development indicators
  • AAC supports individuals with other genetic disorders that affect speech

How Does AAC help?

Augmentative and Alternative communication devices act as a communication bridge. It connects users to their support system, which includes their families, friends, therapists, and Speech and Language Professionals (SLP). The benefits of AAC include:

Do you have any information to add regarding what is AAC (Augmentative and alternative communication)? Please share your ideas in the comment section below!!

References:

https://aacinstitute.org

https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders

https://communicationmatters.org.uk/

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