Augmentative and Alternative Communication Program

The Communication Sciences and Disorders program provides a variety of resources in the area of Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

What is AAC?

“Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) refers to an area of research, clinical and educational practice. AAC involves attempts to study and when necessary compensate for temporary or permanent impairments, activity limitations, and participation restrictions of individuals with severe disorders of speech-language production, and/ or comprehension, including spoken and written modes of communication.” (American Speech-Language and Hearing Association, 2003).

Who uses AAC?

Individuals that may use AAC are those with Complex Communication Needs (CCN). A variety of congenital or acquired conditions exist that take away an individual’s ability to speak or write independently. Beukelman and Mirenda inform readers that intellectual disability,  Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), cerebral palsy, and developmental apraxia of speech (AOS) are a few of the common congenital conditions that cause severe communication disorders that may impair one’s ability to speak or write without assistance. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS), traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke are all acquired medical conditions that commonly result in one’s need for AAC assistance.

What role do Speech-Language Pathologists have regarding AAC?

Speech-language pathologists play a vital role in helping their AAC clients communicate basic needs through whatever assistance or device they deem to be the most beneficial.

What types of AAC are there?

Common types of AAC modalities include:

1. Nonsymbolic gestures and vocalizations

2. Sign Language

3. Low-Tech communication systems. Two common systems are Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and Pragmatic Organization of Dynamic Display (PODD).

4. Speech generating devices (SGDs). Two common SGDs could be labeled as dedicated devices (e.g. Go Talk, Nova Chat, Dynavox T-10, Accent) and mobile technologies (e.g. Words for Life, Proloquo2go, Touchchat, Go Talk, Azav for Autism, etc...)

How do I know which type of AAC to use?

There is no rule on which AAC device suits specific disorders, ages, gender, etc the best. It is simply not that easy. It's based on the individual's skills along with which AAC will be most effective and useful for the individual and his or her communication partners. An AAC assessment is useful to obtain information about the individual's current communication in terms of form and function, information on the individual's skills (e.g. language, cognition, sensory), and information about the individual's participation level.