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What is AAC?

Pedia talking to a young patientAAC stands for augmentative and alternative communication. AAC can include all forms of communication that is not verbal speech, including gestures, facial expressions, signs, pictures, and symbols. AAC consists of a variety of systems including no/low-tech (i.e. signing, simple communication boards), mid-tech (i.e. single message switches), or high-tech systems (i.e. speech generating devices with dynamic displays). Using AAC can significantly increase an individual’s ability to communicate their wants and needs, improve social interaction, and enhance feelings of self-worth.

Who Benefits From AAC?

Anyone with a severe communication disorder who cannot communicate their wants and needs is likely to benefit from the use of an AAC system. Individuals who do not have a consistent means of communication across settings, communication partners, or communicative functions (i.e. requesting, commenting, directing activities) may benefit from AAC. AAC supports individuals who exhibit difficult behaviors, as it can help reduce the frequency and severity of challenging behavior.

Will My Child Rely on AAC Instead of Verbal Speech?

Using an AAC system doesn’t mean verbal speech is not encouraged. A speech generating device can provide additional sensory feedback that enhances the child's ability to learn language. AAC correlates with improvement of natural speech, as many children have developed their verbal skills by repeating what is said on their AAC device. AAC can even help to support speaking individuals when they are sick, tired, or under stress.

Will AAC Isolate My Child From Their Peers?

Use of AAC may enhance your child’s social interaction with others. An individual can use AAC to participate in social communication including greeting, commenting, asking a question, or making a joke. Without their AAC system, they may not have access to these functions of communication, which could further isolate them from their peers. In young children, it has been shown that acceptance does not appear to be related to the type of AAC used (e.g. speech generating device, sign language, communication board).

What Skills Does My Child Need to Have Before Using an AAC System?

There are no prerequisites for using an AAC system. It is not required that your child use a picture or sign-based system before using a mid-tech or high-tech system (i.e. speech generating device). AAC can benefit a variety of individuals with a wide range of skills. Even children with severe cognitive deficits are capable of successfully using an AAC system. AAC can support an individual’s communication needs for short or long periods of time and can be adapted as your child’s skills or needs change.

How Can My Child Get an AAC Evaluation?

We are able to complete AAC evaluations at our facility. As we have access to a variety of AAC systems, we are able to consider and/or trial systems that best meet the needs of your child. Talk to your child’s Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) if you are interested in an AAC evaluation. Your child’s SLP will consider your child’s receptive language, expressive language, social language, and overall communication abilities.

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