Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Feb 28th, 2019 | by Ellen Seder

Ellen Seder

February 28th, 2019

What is AAC Communication?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Many individuals of all ages use AAC due to due to expressive communication disorders. AAC can either be temporary or permanent and can come in all different types and sizes (ASHA, 2018). In this blog, we will explore common myths about AAC and discuss how AAC promoted growth of verbal language.

Common Myths about AAC:

Myth 1: 

Introducing AAC will reduce an individual’s motivation to improve natural speech and will hinder language development (including the development of social communication skills). AAC should be introduced only after the ability to use natural speech has been completely ruled out.

Research Findings
  • The use of AAC does not affect motivation to use natural speech and can, in fact, help improve natural speech when therapy focuses simultaneously on natural speech development and use of AAC in a multimodal approach (Millar, Light, & Schlosser, 2006; Sedey, Rosin, & Miller, 1991). 
  • Intervention for minimally verbal school-age children with ASD that included the use of a Speech Generating Device (SGD) increased spontaneous output and use of novel utterances compared with the same interventions that did not include the use of an SGD (Kasari et al., 2014).
  • AAC can help decrease the frequency of challenging behaviors that may arise from frustration or communication breakdowns (Carr & Durand, 1985; Drager, Light, & McNaughton, 2010; Mirenda, 1997; Robinson & Owens, 1995).

Myth 2: 

Young children are not ready for AAC and will not require AAC until they reach school age.

Research Findings
  • Early implementation of AAC can aid in the development of natural speech and language (Lüke, 2014; Romski et al., 2010; Wright, Kaiser, Reikowsky, & Roberts, 2013) and can increase vocabulary for children ages 3 years and younger (Romski, Sevcik, Barton-Hulsey, & Whitmore, 2015).
  • AAC use with preschool-age children has been associated with increased use of multi-symbol utterances and development of grammar (Binger & Light, 2007; L. Harris, Doyle, & Haff, 1996; see Romski et al. [2015] for a review).
  • AAC use can lead to increases in receptive vocabulary in young children (Brady, 2000; Drager et al., 2006).

Facts about AAC and Verbal Speech:

  • AAC reduces frustration for individuals with complex communication needs by providing a way for communication while they work to develop verbal speech.
  • If someone has the ability to produce verbal speech, AAC does not interfere with that ability.  Using AAC actually supports verbal speech by providing a consistent auditory and visual model and reducing the anxiety of coordinating the oral motor movements required to speak.  Once the “pressure is off,” it often helps the individuals relax and focus on their message rather than the coordination of the movements to produce the correct sounds.
  • AAC speech therapy allows a child to develop language and to communicate. If that child does not speak verbally, he/she still has a voice. (Heidi LoStracco, MS,CCC-SLP, 2015)

About NAPA Center

At NAPA Center, we take an individualized approach to pediatric speech therapy because we understand that each child is unique with very specific needs. We embrace differences with an understanding that individualized programs work better. For this reason, no two therapeutic programs are alike. If your child needs our services, we will work closely with you to select the best therapies for them, creating a customized program specific to your child’s needs and your family’s goals. Let your child’s journey begin today by contacting us to learn more.

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