Other ways people can communicate (AAC)

Other ways people can communicate (AAC)

Other ways people can communicate (AAC)

There are many ways a person can communicate – some of the common ways are verbally, in written form, sign language and even symbols. Children and adults with severe speech or language problems may need to find other ways to communicate besides talking. A term we use to cover communication devices, systems, strategies and tools that replace or support natural speech are known as “Augmentative and Alternative Communication” or AAC. These tools support a person who has difficulties communicating using speech. There are many types of AAC they can use and speech pathologists can help.

What types of AAC are there?

The first A in AAC, Augmentative communication, means adding or supplementing. Augmentative communication is when you add something to your speech (eg. sign language, pictures, a letter board). This can make your message clearer to your listener.

The second A in AAC, Alternative communication, is for when a person can’t speak or when their speech is not understood by others. In this case, they need a different way to communicate. This may be a tool, system, device or strategy that helps a person communicate when they cannot rely on speech.

AAC options can be divided into No-tech/Low-tech and High-tech. No-tech and low-tech options include things like:

  • Gestures and facial expressions
  • Writing
  • Drawing
  • Spelling words by pointing to letters
  • Pointing to photos, pictures, or written words
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A low-tech communication board with Word Power vocabulary

High-tech options include things like

  • Using an app on an iPad or tablet to communicate
  • Using a computer with a “voice,” sometimes called a speech-generating device
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A high-tech speech-generating device with LAMP Words for Life

Just like how there are a number of ways that we all communicate, a person may use one or a combination of low/high-tech AAC. Finding the right AAC system takes time and trial and error. The system may need to be modified or customised to the person’s skills, needs, wants and contexts. A speech pathologist will assess your child’s communication skills, make sure the appropriate AAC system is in place, and provide the training to the user and communication partners.

How does AAC help?

Communication is a fundamental human right. The purpose of AAC is to provide the person with a form of communication so that they can:

  • Express their needs and wants
  • Participate in making their own life choices and expressing their opinions
  • Make and maintain relationships
  • Make connections with others at school, in the workplace and in the community

AAC frequently asked questions

Is my child too young to use AAC? Do they have enough skills?

Some people wonder if children need to be a certain age before they can use AAC. Research shows that AAC helps people of all ages (even those younger than 3 years old)! The earlier you introduce AAC the better the outcomes are. There are no thinking skills, test scores, or other milestones that you need to reach before AAC can help.

Will using AAC stop my child from talking?

A lot of people wonder if using AAC will stop someone from talking or will slow down language development. This is not true—research shows that AAC can actually help with these concerns! People who use AAC can also learn how to read and write.

For other questions that you may have about AAC and your child, speak to a paediatric speech pathologist.