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Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) describes multiple ways to communicate that can supplement or compensate (either temporarily or permanently) for the impairment and disability patterns of individuals with severe expressive communication disorders. 

Successful AAC Systems will help individuals

  • Exercise control of their lives
  • Develop independence
  • Interact with others and express their wishes
  • Become productive, active members of society

AAC is used by individuals with a variety of speech and language deficits with the goal being to support and achieve effective communication. AAC provides a compensatory method for speech difficulties, but can also serve as an important tool in facilitating natural speech development (DeThorne et al., 2009). 

No-Tech/ Unaided Communication Systems: These systems an individual uses with no additional tools or technology such as motor behaviors, gestures, vocalizations, verbalizations (or verbal approximations), proxemics (approach, avoidance), eye gaze, and facial expressions.

Low Tech AAC:  These are “aided” communication strategies (i.e., requires some type of external assistance for the symbols) which do not run from a power source–such as picture or object communication, PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System), partner assisted auditory scanning, etc.

Light Tech AAC: Voice output communication systems which are typically battery operated and have a static (non-changing) display.

High Tech AAC: Communication systems typically requiring an electronic power source and having a dynamic display (changing computerized screen) that responds to user input.