What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Key takeaways
What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

What types of AAC can supplement speech

We often categorise AAC systems into two groups:

No-tech communication systems do not need any tools, and include:

  • Gestures and facial expressions
  • Writing
  • Drawing
  • Spelling words by pointing to letters
  • Pointing to photos, pictures, or written words

Low-tech communication systems need some form of external support and the user’s body, and include:

  • Using an app on an iPad or tablet to communicate
  • Using a computer with a “voice," sometimes called a speech-generating device
  • Using an eye gaze device to communicate

A person may use different types of AAC because there are many ways that we all communicate. An AAC system refers to all the tools of this type that a person uses.

Who would benefit from AAC?

Imagine how difficult life would be if you are unable to communicate? Communication is a basic human right and the inability to communicate can significantly impact the quality of life of a person. The purpose of AAC is to provide the person with a form of communication. AAC is used by people who, some or all of the time, cannot rely on their speech. AAC incorporates the individual's full communication abilities and may include any existing speech or vocalisations, gestures, manual signs, and aided communication. 

A Speech Pathologist may recommend AAC for the following reasons:

  • Spoken language does not develop (non-verbal)
  • Spoken language is slow to develop
  • Spoken language is limited or difficult to understand
  • Spoken language is lost long term or short term

AAC provides people with the ability to express their needs and wants, participate in making their own life choices and expressing their opinions, making and maintaining relationships, and making connections with people at school, work and in the community. 

AAC Myths and Questions

My child has to be a certain age before using AAC.

Research shows that AAC helps people of all ages (even those younger than 3 years old). The earlier you get onto AAC, the more competent the AAC user becomes. There are no prerequisites for AAC!

Using an AAC device will stop my child from talking

This is not true! Research has found that AAC in fact does the opposite and promotes speaking. AAC can be seen as a form of learning. Some people are visual learners, some learn by hearing and some learn by touch. AAC incorporates all these forms of learning and provides people with more input and opportunities to learn. 

AAC is not suitable due to limited movements e.g. unable to move hands

There are many ways to use an AAC system without touching it. Your Speech Pathologist can work with Occupational Therapists and Physiotherapists to determine other access methods. Some examples include eye gaze devices, switches and neuronodes. 

How does an AAC device get funded?

In Australia, AAC devices are funded for people with disabilities under the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). If you have an NDIS plan, speak to your Speech Pathologist about how to get the device funded through NDIS. 

What AAC equipment is used for AAC?

  • Liberator Rugged
  • iPads
  • Liberator Accent Devices

What AAC software is used for AAC?

Each software system has different functions and needs to be matched to an individual based on their strengths:

  • LAMP words for life: LAMP Words for Life® is a therapeutic approach based on neurological and motor learning principles that uses a speech generating device to provide opportunities to learn language in engaging activities by using a consistent motor plan to say words and getting a natural response to that communication.
  • Touchchat: TouchChat HD is a full-featured communication solution for individuals who have difficulty using their natural voice. It is category based and easy to navigate.
  • Proloquo2go: Proloquo2Go is an easy to use communication app for people who cannot speak or need help being understood. Featuring natural sounding voices, including real children’s voices,Proloquo2Go is a simple yet powerful AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) tool.
  • Unity Language System: The Unity language system is flexible and helps communicators of all skill levels learn quickly and build language skills for maximum independence. Individuals start with early first words and grow to sophisticated adult communication.
  • TD Snap: TD Snap is a flexible communication app supporting individuals with speech and language disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, Rett syndrome, and aphasia. It meets users where they are while fostering the development and growth of communication, language, and literacy skills.

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