What is AAC?

The word "communication" highlighted in a dictionary.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is any form of communication other than spoken/oral language used to express thoughts, needs, wants and ideas.

AAC includes a range of communication strategies and supports.

It serves to minimize or compensate for communication difficulties.

AAC can be no-tech to high-tech devices.

  • These approaches can help people who have functional communication impairments, or complex communication needs.
  • AAC includes all communication acts that supplement (augment) or replace (alternate) spoken communication.

    Anything that helps children [or adults] to communicate when traditional strategies are not sufficient to accomplish a communication goal.

    ~Cynthia Cress, 2000

AAC is fluid.

  • We can use variety of strategies and tools at one time.
  • A person can use an AAC device doesn't mean she can't with speech, signs, or gestures. She doesn't have to pick one or the other - she can use ALL.
  • One device/strategy may not (and doesn’t have to) meet all needs.
  • Communication needs change across time, partners, and environment. Someone could be successful using verbal speech with his family. When the same person talks to new people, he might need more help. Maybe a  low-tech communication board or speech generating device.

AAC use can be temporary or long term.

  • Temporary AAC supports help when a condition prevents a person from communicating verbally. For example, patients in the hospital may use an alphabet spelling board to communicate. They may need this if they have a breathing tube preventing them from speaking.
  • Children may use AAC while they are working to develop or improve their spoken speech. Later, they may not need these same supports.
  • Long Term AAC can help people who have chronic or ongoing conditions.
  • We can use AAC across the lifespan, but the specific strategy or device will probably change over time.

AAC does NOT prevent a person from developing or using spoken speech.

  • Instead, research shows that AAC provides an easier, more functional means of communication for individuals with complex communication needs.

AAC can be expressive or receptive.

  • Techniques can be used to support a person's expression and/or his understanding of other people.
  • A partner can add gestures, point to objects, or use pictures to help the person understand. This is all considered AAC.

AAC is dynamic.

  • Communication is a life-long process. Communication and AAC are constantly evolving.
  • A person's communication needs will change across time. So does technology, our sense of what works, and the person's experiences.
  • Even if a person "tried AAC" in the past, look again. Today, we may have new ideas, attitudes, or devices that can help.

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