What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?
From: American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write.
People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace oral speech that is not functional. Special augmentative aids, such as picture and symbol communication boards and voice output devices, are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction, school performance, and feelings of self-worth.
AAC users should not stop using speech if they are able to do so. The AAC aids and devices are used to enhance their communication.
From: Communication Matters.
The term AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) covers a huge range of techniques which support or replace spoken communication. These include gesture, signing, symbols, word boards, communication boards and books, as well as Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs).
If you are a person who uses AAC, family member, career or professional, it is important to consult a speech and language therapist (SLT) or an AAC specialist for an assessment to help you make an informed decision about any equipment you may need.
There are two main types of AAC system: Unaided Communication and Aided Communication.
Aided communication can involve Low-tech or High-tech methods. Some people have additional physical difficulties and may need to use different ways to access these AAC methods.
There is no ‘best’ type of AAC system. Each has pros and cons and the most suitable one for an individual will depend on their personal preference as well as on their abilities and needs. Specialist assessment will help to identify the most appropriate AAC system or systems.
Communication Matters recognizes that augmenting communication involves both speech and writing. Sometimes augmenting communication also involves technology relating to teaching and learning, mobility, environmental control and employment.
From: Center for AAC and Autism
For individuals who cannot speak, AAC provides the means to communicate. Communication involves sharing one's needs, desires, humor and thoughts. It allows us to ask questions and interact with those around us. A person relying on AAC as their means of expression needs to be able to spontaneously communicate whatever they desire at any time in any environment. Their AAC method should not limit their ability to express themselves.
Reaching the goal of independent, spontaneous communication is a process that may begin with learning the meaning of one word, progressing to many words, then combining words together to make phrases and sentences. However, when one begins to learn how to communicate with AAC, the beginning steps need to build toward that goal. If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there but if your goal is independent expression, your path is much more limited.