Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to devices or systems that help people communicate when speech isn’t enough for their needs.
AAC encompasses everything an individual needs in order to communicate. It is simply a tool, like speech, that one can use to support themselves in sharing their thoughts, needs, ideas, and feelings.
Who uses AAC?
Anyone can use AAC, but it can be most helpful for...
Autistic individuals with limited verbal communication or who prefer to have access to alternative methods of communication
Individuals with cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, or other developmental differences
Individuals with severe speech sound difficulties (e.g., Childhood Apraxia of Speech)
AAC can also be an extremely valuable resource for Gestalt Language Processorsbecause it can provide them with a means of communicating when language is not readily accessible, and can also support those with difficulties in motor-planning
Some children and adults may even just prefer communicating with AAC, and that’s a great thing!
Not only does AAC *not* pose a barrier to language development in any way, there's actually evidence that AAC can *help* speech to develop! First, providing a way for kids to communicate without as much frustration will show them that they have the potential to be successful communicators, which makes them more likely to keep trying to use language. This means that AAC can actually empower children to continue learning—NOT prevent it from happening. Also, speech-generating devices can provide useful audio output for children to copy, which can directly help a child’s speech skills develop.
Shouldn't I just focus on requesting? Why does my child need aac?
‘Requesting’ is a very common strategy and goal used in speech therapy, but there’s a lot more to language than just that! We believe that kids of all abilities should be exposed to and taught how to use all sorts of different functions of communication, from telling stories and answering questions to saying no and arguing! This of course includes AAC users.
Do i need to work on my child's understanding prior to introducing aac?
Remember that AAC stands for Alternative & Augmentative Communication — it *is* communication in its own right. A child who uses speech would struggle to understand language if speech was not modelled for them, so of course the same would be true for a child that learns using AAC. In other words, it is the use of (and observing the use of) AAC that will facilitate and contribute to the AAC user’s understanding of language.
How will i know if/when my child is ready for aac?
Actually, there’s no such thing as not being ready to use AAC. Just like how babies don’t need to qualify as ready before learning how to speak verbally, there is no right or wrong time to introduce children to the methods of communication that will allow them to learn. They're ready!
HAEPI SLP THERAPY SERVICES is Indigenous-owned and 100% woman-operated.
We acknowledge that the City of Thunder Bay has been built on the traditional territory of Fort William First Nation, signatory to the Robinson Superior Treaty of 1850. We also recognize the contributions made to our community by the Métis people. We strive as guests on these lands to honour our responsibilities to care for this land and uphold the Treaties that were signed therein.