What Is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

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What Is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

Natural speech’s ease and simplicity conceal the intricacy of a speech production process that requires exact control and synchronization of breathing, voice, articulation, and language comprehension and expression. Speech is the external expression of language for many people, and the motor skills involved are executed with precision and speed without conscious control (Netsell, 1982). Changes in speech subsystems become visible as a result of disability, revealing the intricacy of the system. The inadequacy of natural speech to meet all of an individual’s daily communication demands is the fundamental reason for using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC).

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine published a report in 2017 titled “National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine: Assistive Technology’s Potential to Improve Activity and Work Participation. Augmentative and alternative communication strategies are intended to help those who are unable to communicate verbally. These strategies can help children with speech or hearing impairments. These children can express themselves by signing on a communication board with a series of numbers. They can also generate words and sentences with the help of a technology that duplicates their speech sounds. Children with hearing loss are not the only ones who benefit from Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

What Is AAC?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication refers to communication technologies, systems, tactics, and instruments that substitute or supplement normal speech (AAC). These tools assist someone who has trouble speaking verbally.

Augmentative Communication is the first “A” in AAC. You add to or complement something when you augment it. When you add anything to your speech, it’s called augmentative communication (e.g., sign language, pictures, a letter board). This can help your listener understand what you’re saying.

Alternative Communication is the second “A” in AAC. This is when you are unable to communicate. It’s also when others don’t understand what you’re saying. In this instance, you’ll need to communicate with a different approach.
AAC can be tools, systems, devices, or techniques in general. When a person’s speech isn’t working, these gadgets can help them communicate. Perhaps your child has not yet begun to speak. Maybe you’ve lost your ability to communicate. It’s possible that your speech will come and go. Perhaps speaking is more difficult than other forms of Communication. AAC can be beneficial.

There are a variety of reasons why a person may be unable to communicate verbally. They may have a developmental handicap that has hampered their speech development. They could have an acquired disorder that has hampered their ability to communicate. AAC can help a wide range of persons with various communication issues, speech impairments, and disorders.

Who Is AAC for?

While many people connect these techniques with those who have hearing loss or are deaf or hard of hearing, they are not the same. Those with impaired speech or physical limitations can communicate using a range of communication methods and gadgets.
People with low vocal capacity can utilize portable amplifiers and a keyboard text-to-speech program in addition to computers to make speech sounds. These devices allow people to communicate with others more efficiently.

People with a speech disability, on the other hand, may benefit from alternative Communication to improve their communication abilities. They could also utilize a portable amplifier to boost the volume of their speech. This type of technology can aid in successful Communication for people who have reduced voice capabilities. While these technologies can assist persons with limited vocal capacity in communicating more effectively, they are not a substitute for speech. This is due to the fact that the users of these devices are unable to communicate verbally.

Alternative and augmentative communication methods are more common than you may believe. In fact, many persons with speech disabilities communicate with others via an AAC system. A modest portable amplifier, for example, can assist a youngster with limited voice capability in communicating successfully. A communication board or keyboard text-to-speech software is another possibility. The user must be able to speak verbally regardless of the type of alternative communication equipment used.

AAC devices and methods come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of these methods are used to communicate with people who have difficulty speaking. When looking for a speech device for someone with a hearing impairment, the terms are frequently confused.
AAC systems use signs, gestures, and visuals to help people communicate more effectively. They can assist someone with a variety of communication issues.

What Is Augmentative and Alternative Communication Methods?


No-tech Communication, often known as “unaided communication,” requires no additional technology. Body language, gestures, pointing, eye pointing, facial expressions, vocalizations, and signing are all examples.

Communication Systems That Are Low-Tech

Low-tech communication technologies do not require electricity to operate. Because they rely on simple equipment, they’re sometimes referred to as “assisted communication.” Pen and paper for writing or drawing; alphabet and word boards; communication charts or books with drawings, photos, and symbols; specific objects that represent what someone needs to understand or communicate are just a few examples.

It’s difficult to communicate without using words. In a world where everyone speaks, people who don’t speak are at a disadvantage. When messages are not delivered successfully, it can be perplexing and frustrating. Both the non-speaking person and their communication partner find this frustrating.

A non-speaking individual often has a lot of thoughts that they want to express. How do they express themselves?

Others frequently pass judgment on a person’s competency, potential, and ability to think and learn when they are unable to talk.

A non-speaker will quickly discover that some things are simple to communicate. They also discover that some concepts are difficult to explain (e.g., that the TV show reminds you of a family member who is gone).

What Types of AAC Are Often Used?

When a person is unable to talk, AAC includes all of the tools and tactics that they can utilize to communicate. We usually divide them into two categories: unaided and aided AAC.

  1. AAC without physical help or tool is known as unaided AAC.
    Expressions on the face.
    Gestures and body language.
    Sign language is a form of communication that is used.
  2. AAC with tools or materials – also known as aided AAC.
    Choice cards Symbol boards.
    Books on Communication.
    Books for PMDD.
    Alphabet charts and keyboards.
    Communication devices or speech-generating gadgets.
    Apps for AAC on mobile devices.

We may utilize a high-tech device (such as a Speech Generating Device or an iPad AAC software) or a low-tech/paper-based device (e.g., a communication book or board).

AAC Is Text-Based

A text-based AAC system with a keyboard is one option. This is usually reserved for someone who types the words that they want to say. They are frequently able to read and spell. Assistive Ware’s text-based AAC solution is Proloquo4Text.

AAC Is Based on Symbols

When communicating, many people may require the use of symbols or graphics. This includes persons who are unable to read or spell. Visual symbols that symbolize words or sentences can be introduced. Assistive Ware’s symbol-based AAC solutions are Prologue and Proloquo2Go.

Communicators Who Use Multiple Modes of Communication

Many people who are unable to communicate verbally yet utilize AAC are multimodal communicators. This means they can communicate their messages in a variety of ways. They may employ vocalizations, word approximations, and even gesture and sign language in addition to AAC. Many people use photographs from their camera roll to supplement their statements. All forms of Communication should be appreciated and supported. Even if the Communication is different, it still tells us something!

What Are Some Benefits of Using AAC?

Even persons who can communicate verbally may benefit from AAC. AAC can help if your speech is limited. It might provide a person with additional vocabulary and language. They may be able to communicate significantly more using AAC than they could with only speech.

People with speech or hearing problems can benefit from augmentative and alternative communication. It’s a type of Communication that allows those who have trouble speaking or hearing to communicate. It can also be used to substitute non-functional speech in some circumstances. Even if a person can talk, augmentative and alternative Communication may be their only means of communication. AAC includes the use of computer technology, voice recognition software, and a video phone, in addition to a speech aid.

When a child is unable to speak, they may have to rely on other means of communication. A youngster should be taught both unaided and supported communication strategies. A combination of the two can be utilized to communicate in some instances. It can also be used to assist a person with limited speech who is speech-impaired. You should constantly encourage your child to use augmentative and alternative communication methods as a parent.

People with hearing issues are not the only ones who can benefit from AAC. Portable amplifiers can assist persons with limited vocal capacity in communicating successfully. A person with poor voice abilities can benefit from a portable amplifier. A person with speech or hearing problems can communicate using alternative communication devices such as text-to-speech software or an interactive speech board.

Picture Books and Gestures Are Two of the Most Prevalent AAC Techniques

Consider your child’s present abilities while choosing augmentative and alternative communication equipment. A 2×1 picture grid will assist kids in making sense of their surroundings if they have poor motor abilities. If your youngster can discriminate between two or more items, however, you should communicate with him or her using updated iconography and tactile symbols. This is a crucial step because it will aid the child’s capacity to comprehend and follow directions.

What Are Some Common Concerns About Using AAC?

You might have reservations or questions about utilizing AAC. We’ve learned a lot about how AAC helps people communicate since professionals have been researching it for years. Here are a few places where a study has aided us in our understanding.

Age, Abilities, and Timing Are All Factors to Consider

Some individuals question if children must be at a certain age to utilize AAC. AAC has been shown to benefit persons of all ages (including those as young as three years old) in studies. You may start using AAC right away. There are no prerequisites for AAC to help you, such as thinking skills, exam scores, or other milestones.

Motivation and Talking

Many individuals are concerned that utilizing AAC will prevent someone from speaking or slow down language development. This is not the case—research has shown that AAC can help with these issues! People who use AAC can learn to read and write as well.


You might be wondering how someone who has difficulty moving their arms and hands can use AAC. Apart from touching it, and AAC system can be used in a variety of ways. To determine the optimum manner for each person to use their AAC system, your SLP may collaborate with occupational therapists (OTs) and physical therapists (PTs).


When someone is unable to communicate reliably without the use of AAC, problems arise frequently. People that utilize AAC report that before having a communication system, they went through the following:

More social isolation and loneliness increased frustration and acting out with loved ones greater vulnerability, especially when alone in a care setting, feeling shut out of important life decisions, inability to show what they know or can learn inability to show what they know or can learn inability to show what they know or can learn inability to show what they know or can learn inability to show what they know or can learn inability to show what they know or can learn inability to show.

Many persons who are unable to communicate via speech could benefit from AAC. There are also difficulties when persons do not have access to AAC. These are some of them: Friendships that are stronger and partnerships that are deeper social encounters that are richer and more frequent
deeper social roles: family members, friend, professionals, student more autonomy and decision-making authority over their own lives more independence, more respect from others, greater participation in their families and communities

An SLP can assist you or a loved one in selecting the appropriate AAC system. They also assist you and the individuals you talk within learning how to communicate with AAC. It’s critical to choose the proper tool for you because not every tool works for everyone. If you have varied physical skills that affect how you use your AAC system, SLPs collaborate with other professionals like occupational therapists and physical therapists. Some AAC devices are covered by health insurance, while others are not. Your SLP can assist you in comprehending your alternatives.

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