What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

AAC - Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (or, AAC) is used to help support people who have speech or communication difficulties. The term ‘AAC’ refers to devices that range from simple, low tech systems (e.g. picture pointing systems or yes/no response boards) to those that are more complex (e.g. customized and computerized speech generating devices).  The type of AAC device that is prescribed will depend on the needs of the person using it.

Who uses AAC?

Many people of all ages, with various communication needs, and different backgrounds use AAC to help them communicate. Individuals with acquired brain injuries, developmental delays, spectrum disorder, visual and physical challenges (to name a few) successfully use AAC devices on a daily basis.

Common Myths/Questions about AAC:

  • People who use AAC will never speak
    Depending on the person and his/her abilities, both speech and AAC development may be a continued focus. AAC can be thought of as a “tool” that can aid in speech development, not a hindrance.
  • Can’t I just buy an iPad?
    There are many AAC devices that are specifically designed for AAC. IPads can be beneficial in some circumstances, but it is important to remember that they are not appropriate for every AAC need.Many people have purchased an iPad assuming it will meet the person’s communication needs only to discover that it collects dust or is used for an alternative purpose, such as games. The introduction of any AAC device requires training, programming, maintenance, and in some cases modifications, by a knowledgeable professional.
  • How do I talk to someone with AAC?
    Simply stated: Include them! Offer appropriate eye contact, smile and direct questions, and involve them in the conversation.Be sure to ask more than just yes/no questions!  Limiting questions to only yes/no answers, limits responses.  People using AAC have thoughts, opinions, comments, and a desire to express them.Be patient! Using AAC can require extra time to compose and communicate messages. Many AAC users experience abbreviated conversations because people don’t have time to listen.  Be patient – you will likely find yourself pleasantly surprised by their contribution.

If you have further questions about AAC or AAC devices, contact us 🙂


ASHA (2014). Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Retrieved from  http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/AAC/

Beukelman, D. & Mirenda, P. (2013). Augmentative and alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs (4th ed.). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.

Romski, M. A. & Sevcik, R. A. (1996). Breaking the speechbarrier: Language development through augmented means.Baltimore: Brookes.

Millar, D., Light, J. & Schlosser, R. (2006). The Impact of Augmentativeand Alternative Communication Intervention on the Speech Productionof Individuals With Developmental Disabilities: A Research Review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 248–264.