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Suffolk Center for Speech

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Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

AAC is a way for individuals to communicate when they do not have physical means to speak, it is their means of expressing thoughts, words, or ideas. It can be used temporarily or lifelong.

Types of AAC Systems

  • Aided: require use of symbols, objects, software, computer device, etc.
  • Unaided: manual communication system.
  • High Tech: utilize microcomputers & software; may have printed and/or voice output.
  • Low Tech: commercially available or individually made communication boards, books, object boards, etc..

AAC is useful for many different reasons. It can be used as a strategy to increase poor speech intelligibility, improve ability to communicate & interact, decrease inappropriate behaviors, and/or teach communicative behaviors.

Who Uses AAC?

  • Severe congenital conditions: Cerebral Palsy (CP), progressive neuromuscular diseases
  • Acquired conditions resulting in loss of speech: ALS, head injury
  • Temporary loss of speech: surgery
  • Children with language disorders: Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), Intellectual Disability (ID).

The Participation Model of AAC Assessment

  • Phase 1: Child’s current level of function & communication needs.
  • Phase 2: Develop system to serve child in variety of contexts with different partners.
  • Phase 3: Check that the system continues to meet child’s changing needs.

Assessment Decisions

  1. System
      – High or low tech
      – Aided or unaided
  2. Accessing the selection
      – Direct selection by pointing or reaching
      – Scanning using a switch
      – Head pointing, Eye control
  3. Symbol system
      – Pictures, symbols, words, speech generation device (SGD)

Failure to develop literacy skills restricts access to self-expression, independence, & more complex communication systems. It is important to incorporate literacy goals in intervention and across activities (e.g., words under symbols, environmental print, sight words, etc.). You can also use Speech Generating Devices (SGDs) to facilitate phonological awareness (ability to reflect on sound structure of language).

– Jocelyn S.

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