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Suffolk Center for Speech


Myths about AAC

Augmentative and Alternative Communication can sometimes mistakenly have negative connotations associated with it. There are many myths regarding AAC that should be understood by others and debunked!

Myth 1: My child will talk less if they are using an AAC device.
The number one myth is that using an AAC device will lessen the amount of natural speech that a child/user will have. It is also a myth that children should only use AAC once their speech development has occurred (they’re talking).

In fact, using an AAC device does not hinder a child’s motivation to use their own voice, it can actually help improve their verbal output when speech therapy focuses on AAC and verbal expression simultaneously. (Millar, Light, & Schlosser, 2006; Sedey, Rosin, & Miller, 1991). Using an AAC device can actually aid in decreasing the amount of frustration a child feels by allowing them an outlet to express themselves! (Carr & Durand, 1985; Drager, Light, & McNaughton, 2010; Mirenda, 1997; Robinson & Owens, 1995).

Myth #2: Children need to be a certain age before AAC is introduced.
There is no age that is a threshold for introducing AAC! In fact, the earlier the child uses AAC, the better! Early use of AAC can help aid in the development of verbal output and language development (Lüke, 2014; Romski et al., 2010; Wright, Kaiser, Reikowsky, & Roberts, 2013). AAC can also help increase vocabulary for children under the age of three (Romski, Sevcik, Barton-Hulsey, & Whitmore, 2015).

Myth #3: Children must be at a certain cognitive level to be able to use and understand AAC.
There are no prerequisite skills to using AAC. Of course, a child will need to be matched to their AAC device based on their accessibility (wheelchair bound, etc.) however, a child does not need to understand casual relationships to be able to utilize a device (Kangas & Lloyd, 1988; Zangari & Kangas, 1997). There is actually research to suggest that development of foundational language skills can sometimes lead to gains in cognition (Goossens’, 1989).

– Lauren W. M.S. CF-SLP

Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 248–264.

Sedey, A., Rosin, M., & Miller, J. (1991, November). The use of signs among children with Down syndrome. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Atlanta, GA.

Carr, E., & Durand, M. (1985). Reducing behavior problems through functional communication training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 111–126.

Drager, K. D. R., Light, J., & McNaughton, D. (2010). Effects of AAC interventions on communication and language for young children with complex communication needs. Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine: An Interdisciplinary Approach, 3, 303–310.

Mirenda, P. (1997). Supporting individuals with challenging behavior through functional communication training and AAC: Research review. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 13, 207–225.

Robinson, L., & Owens, R. (1995). Functional augmentative communication and behavioral change. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 11, 207–211.

Lüke, C. (2014). Impact of speech-generating devices on the language development of a child with childhood apraxia of speech: A case study. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 11, 80–88.

Romski, M., Sevcik, R. A., Adamson, L. B., Cheslock, M., Smith, A., Barker, M., & Bakeman, R. (2010). Randomized comparison of augmented and nonaugmented language interventions for toddlers with developmental delays and their parents. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 350–364.

Wright, C. A., Kaiser, A. P., Reikowsky, D. I., & Roberts, M. Y. (2013). Effects of a naturalistic sign intervention on expressive language of toddlers with Down syndrome. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 56, 994–1008.

Romski, M., Sevcik, R. A., Barton-Hulsey, A., & Whitmore, A. S. (2015). Early intervention and AAC: What a difference 30 years makes. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 31,181–202.

Kangas, K., & Lloyd, L. (1988). Early cognitive skills as prerequisites to augmentative and alternative communication use: What are we waiting for? Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 4, 211–221.

Zangari, C., & Kangas, K. (1997). Intervention principles and procedures. In L. Lloyd, D. Fuller, & H. Arvidson (Eds.), Augmentative and alternative communication (pp. 235–253). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Goossens’, C. (1989). Aided communication intervention before assessment: A case study of a child with cerebral palsy. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 5, 14–26.

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