What Is Augmentative And Alternative Communication? (AAC)

What Is Augmentative And Alternative Communication? (AAC) | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

Recent statistics on speech, language, and communication suggest that up to 1% of the world has a speech, language or communication need.

These needs make it difficult for you to communicate in ways that others normally do.

This is where augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) comes into the picture.

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) involves all forms of communication other than talking.

It’s a great tool to use at any age with the goal of improving communication.

You may use AAC if you have trouble with your speech or language skills.

It helps to augment, complement, or replace your speech.

There are many communication deficits in adults as well as children that could benefit from AAC.

AAC has multiple styles and types that your speech therapist can recommend to you based on their evaluation.

These methods of AAC can include:

  • Facial expressions
  • Pointing at letters to spell out a word
  • Using photos to spell out words
  • Writing and drawing
  • Speech generating devices

Every person differs in which methods of AAC you use.

You may use one of these AAC methods, or a combination of these AAC methods.

AAC can be unaided or aided.

Aided AAC includes communication that requires external support.

Unaided types of AAC include communication that is non spoken and natural and does not require an aid.

It’s worth noting that augmentative and alternative communication doesn’t cause developmental delays in your child reaching their speech related milestones for children.

There is also no minimum milestone or scores on speech or development tests required to use it.

Even kids as little as three years old can benefit from learning, and using AAC.

If your child may need AAC, we have an intro resource to help you get familiar with AAC for your child.

AAC is a great resource to help support any type of speech therapy for learning disability, along with other speech and language issues.

There are also a number of other issues that augmentative and alternative communication can help with.

Now, let’s dive into what AAC is, what the different types of AAC are, what AAC helps with, and when to use it.

What Is Augmentative And Alternative Communication?

Augmentative and alternative communication refers to ways you can communicate without using spoken words.

You can use augmentative and alternative communication at any age if you’re having trouble with your speaking abilities.

Your time using it can be short term, or long term.

Augmentative and alternative each have their own meanings.

Augmentative communication is something that adds to your speech.

Alternative communication is a method used which is an alternative to speech.

There are many different types of augmentative and alternative communication, and you probably use at least a few of them in your day to day life without even thinking about it.

Without using technology, some examples include writing, drawing, gestures, facial expressions, pointing, and sign language.

Some fancier options include using an app on a tablet for communication or using a computer ‘voice’, which is also known as a speech generating device.

Augmentative and alternative communication includes all the tools that you could use to aid your speech.

Different types of AAC may be used depending on the severity of your communication issues and what type of communication issue(s) you are dealing with.

Types Of AAC

There are two main categories of augmentative and alternative communication: unaided and aided.

The type of AAC or speech therapy that you use may differ depending on a number of different factors.

These can include:

  • Your attention span and ability to focus
  • Your memory
  • Your vision
  • Your technology skills
  • Your fine motor skills
  • The type and size of device you might need
  • The disabilities you may have
  • The environment you use your AAC in

Now, let’s dive into the details of each category.

Unaided AAC

Unaided augmentative and alternative communication doesn’t require an external tool.

This can include facial expressions, body language, finger spelling, gestures, manual signs, vocalizations, and verbalizations.

This also includes sign language.

RELATED: Frequently Asked Questions About Sign Language

Aided AAC

Aided augmentative and alternative communication requires the use of some type of external tool.

This tool can be either electronic or non electronic.

Electronic options can be different features of a computer, tablet, or smart phone.

This can include communication apps, text to speech features, and texting.

Non electronic options can include objects, pictures, photographs, visual schedules, and writing.

You might use one, two, or even a blend of multiple types of augmentative and alternative communication options.

Each person’s needs are different, and our Washington DC speech pathologists will work with you to decide what makes the most sense.

Who Needs AAC?

If your current method of communication does not meet your communication needs, AAC can help.

This could help if your current method restricts or impairs the quality and quantity of your interactions with others.

Your speech therapist will evaluate your needs and determine if you need augmentative and alternative communication based on the following criteria:

  • If augmentative communication is needed to facilitate natural speech
  • If alternative communication is needed to replace verbal speech, writing, or expressive language
  • If aided communication is required in order to facilitate more appropriate alternate behaviors
  • If your need for AAC is temporary or permanent

There are a number of conditions for which individuals benefit from augmentative and alternative communication.

There are many reasons why communication issues may arise.

The following cases may involve AAC:

Your speech therapist may also use AAC for issues involving focus or memory.

RELATED: Having Trouble Focusing? It Could Be A Speech Or Language Disorder

Speech may also be lost due to an injury to your brain, chronic disease, progressive diseases, or damage to your throat or vocal cords.

Due to this, AAC may be used in the following cases:

Does Using AAC Cause Developmental Issues?

This is a very common question.

Using augmentative and alternative communication does not slow down or cause developmental issues.

It’s the opposite.

Using augmentative and alternative communication will stimulate development and continue to help you improve your language capabilities.

AAC can help to improve language development by reducing your frustration in relation to your communication issues.

For instance, if you are having difficulty speaking to the point someone else has trouble understanding you, AAC may help language development by helping you communicate with others.

It helps in language development by providing auditory input on the word being communicated.

AAC can also help improve social skills.

When Should Your Child Start Using AAC? | District Speech & Language Therapy | Washington D.C. & Arlington VA

When Should Your Child Start Using AAC?

Another common question is if there is a particular age your child needs to reach before being recommended to use augmentative and alternative communication.

Current research indicates that augmentative and alternative communication helps at all ages, even if your child is under three.

There are no particular milestones you need to reach to use augmentative and alternative communication.

Instead, your speech therapist for kids will recommend an appropriate type of augmentative and alternative communication based on their evaluation.

How Can A Speech Therapist Help?

Your speech therapist will help you find the right augmentative and alternative communication option for you.

Remember, they’re tools that can help.

So, the goal is for your speech therapist to help you find tool that works best for you.

Your speech therapist can also help you to understand which options are covered by insurance, and which are not.

They might also work with other professionals like a physical therapist or an occupational therapist.

This is important if you have different physical skills that will affect how you access your augmentative and alternative communication.

For example, there are roles that physical, occupational, and speech therapy all play with aphasia.

To help you, your speech therapist will first complete a thorough speech and language assessment in order to evaluate your needs.

They’ll consider:

  • Your current method of communication and its effectiveness
  • Your ability to follow directions and commands
  • Your ability to respond to yes or no questions
  • Your ability to point given a prompt
  • Your current method of expressing communicative intent

Then, they will create a program for you that will maximize the efficiency and effectiveness of your communication based on this assessment.

For example, if you have trouble with following directions, there are many funs ways a speech therapist may work around this.

With the right augmentative and alternative communication, you should be able to:

  • Improve your functional communication
  • Improve your social communication
  • Improve your speech production and understanding
  • Increase your language and literacy skills

Book Your Appointment With District Speech Today

Augmentative and alternative communication tools can help you or your child improve your ability to express yourself.

Our team of therapists will work with you to find the best match for you.

And remember, there aren’t any milestone requirements if your child needs to use one too.

They’ll stimulate their development and ensure they continue to learn as they grow.

If you or your child needs AAC, we can help.

Book an appointment today to speak with one of our many experienced speech therapists.

Book your appointment with District Speech today.

District Speech and Language Therapy
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005

- https://g.page/districtspeech

District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.