Mikee Larrazabal 10 min read

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in Speech Therapy

Is getting an AAC the last resort?

There are lots of speculations about Augmentative and Alternative Communication as it is seen as the last resort for non-verbal children. AAC is a term used to describe communication methods that help people who have difficulty speaking. This might include using devices such as tablets or computers, or signing with your hands. AAC can be a huge help for people who want to communicate but have difficulty doing so using traditional methods. We will discuss the basics of AAC, how to use AAC devices for speech therapy. We will also be debunking 6 myths about AAC and why it is not TRUE! 

What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to any method of communication that is used to supplement or replace traditional speech. This might include using sign language, gestures, picture boards, or even Augmentative and alternative communication devices.

An AAC device is any battery-operated machine that generates speech. They can be as simple as a keypad with pictures or as sophisticated as a computer with voice output. It can be a big help for people who have difficulty speaking or are nonverbal.

It is important to note that AAC devices are not the last resort! AAC devices should be seen as what they are: tools that can help individuals with difficulty speaking to communicate more effectively. This can help people with difficulty speaking to be more independent, express themselves, and communicate more effectively.

Augmentative communication is any method of communication that can supplement traditional speech. Alternative communication is any method of communication that can replace traditional speech.

There are three main types of Augmentative and alternative communication devices by technology: low-tech, high-tech, and no-tech.

AAC device
  1. No-Tech 

A no-tech AAC device is a communication aid that does not require any technology. No-tech AAC devices include sign language and gestures.

  1. Low-Tech 

A low-tech AAC device is the simplest augmentative and alternative communication device. They do not require electricity or batteries and can be used without any training. Low-tech AAC devices include picture boards, communication books, and magnets with words or pictures.

  1. High-Tech

A high-tech AAC device is more complex than low-tech AAC devices and usually require electricity or batteries to operate. High-tech AAC devices can range from simple keypads with pictures to more sophisticated computers with voice output. Examples of high-tech AAC devices are  the Dynavox Maestro, the AAC app Proloquo AAC, and the Eye-gaze system.

There are three main types of Augmentative and alternative communication devices by aid: aided and unaided.  

  1. Aided

An aided AAC device requires some type of physical support to use. This might include using a picture board with magnets or a keypad with pictures.

  1. Unaided 

An unaided AAC deviceat does not require any physical support to use. This might include using sign language or gestures.

There are a lot of Augmentative and Alternative Communication devices available.

Augmentative and alternative communication devices can range from simple picture boards to more sophisticated computer-based systems. The type of AAC device that is right for you will depend on your individual needs and preferences.

The following  are some AAC devices that you may want to consider:

  • Picture boards: Picture boards are AAC devices that use pictures to represent words or phrases. Picture boards can communicate a variety of messages, such as requesting an object or activity. 
  • Keypads: Keypads are AAC devices that use a series of buttons, each with a different picture or symbol, to represent words or phrases. Keypads can communicate a variety of messages, such as expressing emotions.
  • Communication books: Communication books are AAC devices that use a series of pages, each with a different picture or symbol, to represent words or phrases. Communication books can communicate a variety of messages, such as asking questions.
  • Speech-generating devices (SGDs): Speech-generating devices are AAC devices that generate speech. SGDs can communicate a variety of messages, such as gaining someone’s attention.
  • AAC apps: AAC apps are computer programs that can be installed on a smartphone or tablet. AAC apps can communicate a variety of messages, such as requesting an object or activity, expressing emotions, or asking questions. 

Factors that should be considered when picking the right Augmentative and Alternative device 

There are many AAC devices available on the market. When choosing an AAC device, it is important to consider the following factors:

The individual’s needs and preferences: The AAC device should meet the individual’s needs and preferences. AAC devices come in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors, and styles.

The level of support required: Some AAC devices require more support than others. Individuals who require more support may need a high-tech AAC device that generates speech or an AAC app that can be installed on a smartphone or tablet.

The environment: The AAC device should be appropriate for the individual’s environment. For example, if the individual will be using the AAC device at school, then the AAC device should be durable and easy to carry.

The level of difficulty: The AAC device should be appropriate for the individual’s level of difficulty. AAC devices come in a variety of complexity levels. Some AAC devices, such as picture boards, are very simple to use while other AAC devices, such as speech-generating devices, can be more complex.

Who needs an Augmentative and Alternative Device? 

AAC devices are beneficial for individuals who have difficulty communicating such as individuals with a variety of conditions, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hearing loss, autism and speech delay. Individuals who are nonverbal or have limited speech can also benefit from AAC devices. More importantly, AAC devices can be used by children and adults. People of all ages, with a variety of needs and abilities can, of course and definitely, use AAC devices.

Stephen Hawking is one of the most famous people who used AAC, and he communicated using a device that he operated by moving his cheek. Everyone should have access to AAC devices and services, especially if they have difficulty communicating verbally.

The Benefits of Augmentative and Alternative Communication 

Augmentative and alternative communication devices

There are many benefits of AAC, both for the individual using AAC and for their communication partners. AAC can help people with difficulty speaking to:

  • Be more independent:  AAC can give people the ability to communicate their needs without always having to rely on others.
  • Express themselves: AAC can help people express their thoughts, feelings, and emotions more easily.
  • Communicate more effectively: AAC can help people communicate more clearly and be better understood by others. 
  • Decrease frustration: AAC can help people communicate more easily, which can lead to less frustration.
  • Build self-esteem: AAC can help people feel more confident and proud of their ability to communicate.

6 Myths about Augmentative and Alternative Devices

There are many myths about AAC devices such as: 

Autism and speech delay

AAC DEVICES ARE EXPENSIVE

No! AAC devices can be expensive, but many AAC devices are affordable.

AAC DEVICES ARE ONLY FOR PEOPLE WHO CANNOT SPEAK

UH-UH! AAC devices are not just for people who cannot speak. It can be used by individuals with a variety of conditions, such as cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, hearing loss, autism and speech delay. 

AAC DEVICES ARE ONLY FOR CHILDREN 

Of course not! AAC devices can be used by children and adults. Even though AAC devices are often used by children, AAC devices can be very beneficial for adults as well. AAC devices can help individuals with difficulty speaking to be more independent, express themselves, and communicate more effectively.

AAC DEVICES ARE ONLY FOR PEOPLE WITH AUTISM 

Wrong again! AAC devices are not just for people with autism. AAC devices is for everyone!

MY CHILD CAN TALK, HE DOES NOT NEED AN AAC!

AAC devices can be used by individuals who are nonverbal or have limited speech. It can also be used by people who want to supplement their current communication abilities. AAC devices can help people with difficulty speaking to be more independent, express themselves, and communicate more effectively.

AAC IS A FAD

Nope! AAC is not a fad. AAC has been around for many years and AAC devices have been used by people all over the world.

As Stephen Hawking said,  AAC “gives [people] a voice.” AAC devices should not be seen as a last resort, but AAC devices should be seen as what they are: tools that can help individuals with difficulty speaking to communicate more effectively. Debunking these myths about AAC is important because AAC devices should be accessible by ALL.

How to Get Started with AAC Devices

Now that you know more about AAC devices, you may be wondering how to get it. The following are some tips for getting started with AAC:

  1. Consult with a speech-language pathologist: A speech-language pathologist can assess the individual’s needs and make recommendations about which AAC device would be best for the individual and the importance of AAC devices for speech development.
  2. Do your research: There are many AAC devices available on the market. It is important to do your research to find an AAC device that is right for you.
  3. Try different AAC devices: Some AAC devices may work better for you than others. It is important to try different AAC devices to find the one that works best for you. 
  4. Consult with a speech-language pathologist: A speech-language pathologist can assess the individual’s needs and make recommendations about which AAC device would be best for the individual and the importance of AAC devices for speech development.
  5. Do your research: There are many AAC devices available on the market. It is important to do your research to find an AAC device that is right for you.
  6. Try different AAC devices: Some AAC devices may work better for you than others. It is important to try different AAC devices to find the one that works best for you. 

Role of Speech therapy 

Speech therapy can play an important role in AAC. Speech therapists can provide AAC training to individuals and their families. AAC training can help people learn how to use AAC devices effectively. For speech therapy, it can be used as tools to help individuals with difficulty speaking communicate more effectively.

AAC specialists are trained in AAC and can provide AAC devices and support. Speech therapists can also provide AAC consultation to teachers, daycare providers, and others who work with individuals, such as children with autism and speech delay, who use AAC devices.

Role of the Family 

The family plays an important role in AAC. Acceptance by the family is important for AAC’s success. Families should be involved in AAC assessment, AAC device selection, AAC training, and AAC support.

Role of the Community 

The community also plays an important role in AAC. AAC devices should be made available to individuals who need them. Individuals, families, and professionals who work with AAC users should be trained to know that whats and hows of AAC devices.

At school, AAC should be integrated into the curriculum. AAC devices should be available in the community, such as in libraries and community centers. Support groups can provide AAC information and support to families and individuals who use AAC devices.

YOUR ROLE!  

You also play an important role in AAC. As an AAC user, you should be involved in AAC assessment, AAC device selection, AAC training, and AAC support. As a family member or friend of an AAC user, you can provide AAC information and support.

In conclusion, AAC is an important mode of communication. AAC devices should be made available to all individuals who need them. It should be integrated into the curriculum at school. AAC support groups can provide AAC information and support to families and individuals who use AAC devices.

If you or someone you know is having difficulty communicating, AAC may be a good option for you! AAC devices for speech development can be beneficial for individuals with a variety of conditions, such as autism and speech delay, and can help people communicate more effectively. AAC is a great way for people to express themselves and be more independent.

If you are interested in learning more about AAC, please consult with a speech-language pathologist today

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about AAC. I would be happy to chat with you about AAC devices, AAC training, AAC support, and anything else AAC-related!

Thank you for reading! I hope this has been helpful.