Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a form of communication used instead of or along with talking.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) helps children who have difficulties hearing and/or speaking. These alternative forms of communication can help children take in and understand messages, as well as express their thoughts and ideas with others.

What are the different types of AAC?

There are unaided and aided forms of AAC.

  • Unaided Forms of AAC – require children to use their bodies to communicate. They can use sign language, gestures, and facial expressions. An example of this is a hand gesture like the ‘thumbs up’ sign.
  • Aided Forms of AAC – require a child to use equipment and devices to communicate. This could include a pen and paper, pictures, or an electronic device.

Not all communication devices are going to be tech-based. Using pictures so your child can pick what to eat for breakfast, or a chart showing the plan for the day can help reduce frustrations.

What do AAC devices offer to a child?

AAC devices help bring together many parts of communication to include a child in more activities. The features on AAC device can include:

  • Screens showing text for two Alternative Communicationpeople to share information
  • Picture board touch screens with images and symbols
  • Spelling and word recognition
  • Internet to access information
  • Multimedia, e.g. videos and photos
  • Texting and cell phone apps
  • Social media to connect with others

It’s important to remember that AAC devices don’t hinder speech and language development. They help children find a different way of communicating.

Can I purchase my own AAC mobile apps and devices for my child?

Mobile technology has made AAC software easier to access for families, however, children should always receive a formal evaluation for AAC by a speech-language pathologist who can choose a program that best suits the needs of the child.

Your healthcare provider can offer you a referral for a speech-language pathologist. Many pediatric therapy clinics also give free screenings to children.

How to Engage with Children Who Use AAC

  • Comment and respond, as you would with any form of communication.
  • Encourage all forms of communication, no matter what that looks like. This may mean children use a combination of gestures, sign language, and electronic devices.
  • Be patient! They could just be learning to use a new device, or be trying their best. If they’re trying, say, “I see you’re trying to say something” to acknowledge their efforts. Then be patient as they continue using the device.