What is AAC and how might it help your child?

What is AAC?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. AAC is any device used to communicate that is not spoken speech; even texting can be seen as an AAC device. This form of communication is typically used with children who are minimally verbal or nonverbal.

To begin, individualized communication devices must first be “fitted” to see which device will work best for the client. The device may have a multitude of phrases and words the client can pick from but must be individualized based on their cognitive and fine motor developmental levels.

AAC should be provided as a communication intervention plan as early as possible. This is so that clients are able to incorporate this form of communication into their daily lives, as it helps clients vocalize their needs. 

Types of AAC

Different types of AAC include:

Unaided: facial expressions, body language, sign language, gestures (these forms require some motor control of your body)

Aided (low tech): pictures, photographs, writing, communication boards/books

Aided (high tech): Speech Generating Devices (SGD) or Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs), AAC applications on an iPad or mobile device

How does AAC work?

First, the child must be evaluated to test which device type is the best fit for their developmental needs. For example, if a child has cognitive and communication impairment, the use of unaided communication may work best. Other clients will use a communication board to point or gesture to the indicated picture that represents their need or thought.

During the beginning of the AAC process, your child will explore, point to and press different pictures. This is similar to a toddler who babbles while learning to speak.

How might AAC help your child?

This form of assistive technology can help promote your child’s communication and social skills. The use of AAC will help your child express tangible thoughts, needs, feelings and ideas by gesturing or pointing to the specific phrases or items. Studies have shown that children with autism process visual information easier than verbal, which is why seeing the pictures associated with words and phrases will be beneficial to the communication intervention plan using AAC.

There are plenty of benefits and reasons why AAC may be a great communication intervention for your child. AAC also improves the amount of frustration the child may face, empowers the child, supports their learning and cognitive skills, as well as increases the overall quality of life to the child.