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

Alternative and Augmentative communication has proven to have positive effects on people with communication deficits. What is AAC?  And how can communication devices and systems help people with speech 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 challenges and comprehension difficulties, AAC devices are a way to express their feelings, opinions, needs, and wants.

Types of AAC (Alternative and Augmentative Communication) devices and systems

Types of AAC

Sign Language

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

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

Communication book
Communication book

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.

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

  • High Tech 
    This comprises of 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.A child using High Tech AAC
  • The Need for Alternative and Augmentative Communication

    Here are some of the ways speech and language impairments affect individuals:

    • People with speech difficulties are not able to make themselves heard.
    • Mingling with friends or attending regular school becomes tough. Their inability to mix with peers leads to poor self-esteem and a life of exclusion and loneliness.
    • Their preferences are often taken for granted and intentions are second-guessed. People’s expectations of them are generally lower, for no fault of theirs.
    • This leads to poor self-esteem and confidence. This further prevents the individual from leading an inclusive, fulfilling life and reaching their potential.

    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
    • Other genetic disorders that affect speech

    How Does AAC help?

    Augmentative and Alternative communication acts 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:

    • Gives the ability to communicate
    • Reduces anxiety
    • Reduces behavior issues
    • Increases independence
    • Boosts self-confidence, self-esteem
    • Provides access to equal opportunities at education and work
    • Improves social relationships
    • Improves overall Quality of Life by living a life with Dignity and Inclusion

    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.

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

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