What is AAC?

AAC = Augmentative and Alternative Communication

It is a term that's used to describe various methods of communication that can help people who are unable to use verbal speech to communicate. AAC is designed for Autism, Down Syndrome, ALS, apraxia, stroke, etc.

AAC stands for augmentative and alternative communication. It refers to tools and strategies that can enhance speech or provide completely different means of communication. AAC can be aided (using a device) or unaided (no means needed), such as sign language or gestures. The truth is we all use some AAC. We text, type, write and use gestures. Additional instruments, such as communication devices, books, or apps, can provide
means of communication for individuals who cannot speak.


It all comes down to communication:
- how people interact;
- how they establish relationships;
- how they learn about others and the world around them;
how they make themselves understood.

It is clear that everyone has questions, doubts, and curiosities and, on the other hand, also something to say, to let others know about it.
 
But what about people who find it harder or even impossible to speak?

AAC is the answer

AAC means Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

But what does it imply?

Augmentative communication represents the addition of different elements to the speech to support it and help the information be transmitted clearly and more efficiently.

Alternative communication is a way of expressing thoughts, ideas, feelings, desires, and needs without using speech.

The two terms are combined to convey the system of communication methods used to supplement or even substitute natural speech for those who cannot use it efficiently.

Facts and Myths about AAC

Myth: “AAC is only for nonverbal individuals.”

Fact: Actually, it is for anyone who does not have reliable verbal speech as any patient who does not have effective expressive communication.

Myth: “AAC hinders further speech development.”

Fact: Especially for young children, it is the exact opposite. It enhances the development of spoken communication.

Myth: “AAC is the last resort in the speech-language intervention.”

Fact: AAC can play important roles in early communication development.

Using AAC tools makes a difference, especially for children, who are more likely to improve their communication skills. Such devices are used in different therapies for kids to practice their language interactively. It is also a great strategy to make the conversations evolve a lot quicker than they would without it.

Also, in critical situations, when individuals encounter communication deficits, AAC apps ease the process of them getting the help they need. They do not have to struggle anymore to tell people taking care of them what is going on or what they need. Especially when it comes to an emergency, time is priceless, and AAC helps save it.

 

Augmentative and alternative communication, no matter the age, is a practical rehabilitation approach for people with impairments in linguistic expression, helping those patients to increase their social participation while enhancing their self-esteem.

Researchers hypothesize that using an AAC device relieves the pressure of speaking, allowing the individual to focus on communication. In addition, the reduction of psychological stress makes speech production more manageable. Others speculate that the model of spoken output facilitates an increase in speech production.

 

Who is AAC for?

AAC is used by people who have difficulty producing oral speech due to speech or language deficits.
 
AAC can help people augment or supplement their communication or serve as an alternative to their communication.
 
Depending on personal circumstances, those who utilize AAC may use it temporarily or long-term.


Examples of individuals who use AAC include those with:

  • autism spectrum disorders (ASDs)

  • developmental delays

  • apraxia & dyspraxia

  • cerebral palsy

  • cognitive impairments

  • physical disabilities

  • traumatic brain injury (TBI)

  • stroke

  • cancer

  • degenerative diseases

This list includes many common causes for using AAC. However, it is not all-inclusive; there can be numerous reasons to use AAC.
 
The important thing to remember is that if you or someone you know is having difficulty communicating, AAC may likely be beneficial.

The user should not prove he can use AAC

There are NO skills a child must have in order to be considered a candidate for an AAC device.

In fact, AAC can actually help a child learn those skills faster. We use the technology to TEACH the language/concepts.

Communication is a human right and everyone must have access to it.

 

Benefits of AAC

There are many benefits when it comes to using AAC. The most known are:

- it not only benefits the user, meaning the person with communicating problems, but it is also beneficial for the ones interacting with them
 
- it has a positive impact on language development
 
- it helps individuals integrate into society, creating deep bonds between people, such as friendships
 
- it can represent a valuable and accessible platform for specialists and parents to work with children who have communication difficulties
 
- usually, high-tech AAC systems are very adaptable and are easy to personalize for each individual’s needs and preferences
 
-it gives a chance for a more active social life in all fields: family, friendship, professional area
 
- it enhances the quality of life for users both physically and mentally

What people without AAC go through

People that do not use AAC may go through challenging experiences such as:

- loneliness

- social anxiety

- inability to express themselves

- frustration and negative emotions because, for them, it is so much more demanding to connect with others and communicate properly

- unfortunately, they might be misunderstood numerous times, and children with complex communication needs are denied opportunities to participate in proper general education

 
Every aspect of the life of individuals who do not use AAC methods might be much more complicated, starting from home life, the simple interactions with family members, and continuing with both social and professional fields. So it might make people with speech difficulties feel uncomfortable socializing, which can determine them to become introverted and isolated. This can only make the situation worse because if individuals are not stimulated to connect with others and try to communicate, they will refuse to do it. So their skills will not improve but will regress.
 
Because no one wants such results, it is way better to use AAC. There are many options for specific communication needs for each individual.

How does AAC help?

AAC apps have various options for their users: they can use symbols, words, expressions, or even complex phrases.

Such tools are used in different therapies for kids to practice their language interactively. It is also a great strategy to use to make the conversations evolve a lot quicker than without it.

Time is priceless, and AAC helps save it.

 

How does AAC work?

​​
Just tap the picture of the desired item/action/question/etc.


So simple, but so powerful.


You can say anything! From basic needs to a whole phrase.


Let's say, as an example, that the user wants to sleep. 


This is how he can say it:
Step 1. Tap the "I need" button
need.png
Step 2. Tap the "to sleep" button
sleep.png
...and the iPad will say the message: "I need to sleep."
 

Types of AAC

There are more types of AAC. Depending on the user's needs, and budget, you can choose from a variety of options.

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  • Gestures

  • Manual Signs

  • Facial Expressions

  • Vocalizations

  • Verbalizations

  • Body Language

  • Pictures

  • Objects

  • Photographs

  • Writing

  • Communication boards/books

  • Speech Generating Devices (SGD)

  • Single Message Devices and Recordable/Digitized Devices

  • AAC software that enables dynamic symbol/language representation and that is used with a computer/tablet/smartphone

Unaided AAC does not require special outside tools or supplemental materials because it is based on natural communication such as facial expressions, gestures, body language, and informal vocalization. It even implies sign languages.

Aided AAC is any device, either electronic or non-electronic, that is used to transmit or receive messages. It can range from communication books or boards to speech-generating devices.

 

Aided AAC is divided into two categories: low-tech aids and high-tech aids.

The first refers to non-electronic devices, usually represented by straightforward communication books or boards. Each user selects letters, words, phrases, symbols, objects, or images to transmit a message.

The second category includes speech generating devices or voice output communication aid in electronic format. There are usually digitalized, playing recorded words or phrases, or synthesized, using text-to-speech software.

 

Text-based

vs.

Symbol-based

Text-based

A text-based AAC system has an incorporated keyboard. This system suits people who type the words they want to say.


They can also choose from pre-written phrases/words.

They can read and write. 

Text-based AAC is a combination of spelling and choosing pre-written messages.

Symbol-based

Many AAC systems are symbol-based because most people need symbols and pictures to communicate.
 
These types of people usually can't read or spell. So having visual symbols for words or phrases is fitting for them. Even the people who know how to write still find symbols more useful.