Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is the term used to describe various methods of communication that can ‘add-on’ to speech and help to get around problems with ordinary speech. We all use some form of AAC in our everyday life – waving goodbye or giving a thumbs up for example – however, some people with communication difficulties have to rely on AAC. AAC can also facilitate speech development by removing the anxiety of trying to communicate – it allows entrance into literacy, participation, independence, inclusion and access.

Types of AAC

  • No-Tech Communication or unaided communication makes use of body language, gestures, pointing, facial expressions, vocalisation, signing, and eye pointing.
  • Low-Tech Communication or aided communication includes pen and paper to write messages or draw; alphabet and word boards; communication charts or books with pictures, photos and symbols; particular objects used to stand for what the person needs to understand or say.
  • High-Tech Communication is also aided communication and requires power from a battery or mains. These range from simple buttons or pages that speak and/or produce text when touched, to very sophisticated systems. Some high-tech systems are based on familiar equipment such as mobile devices, tablets and laptops, others use equipment specially designed to support communication.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who benefits from AAC?

Anyone with significant communication difficulties caused by a permanent condition such as Cerebral Palsy, or Down Syndrome, or one which may improve over time such as a Traumatic Brain Injury or Stroke.

What reading and spelling skills are needed?

Some people use spelling to create messages, but good reading and spelling skills are not essential for AAC because there are systems based on using symbols, pictures, photos or objects instead.

What about people who can’t press keys?

There are many solutions for those who would have difficulty physically operating a piece of equipment. Accessibility options include a keyguard, a pointer, a switch to control a scanning system, or even an eye gaze controller.

What is the best kind of AAC system?

There is no ‘best’ type of AAC system. Each system has its pros and cons; the most suitable one for an individual will depend on their abilities, needs and personal preferences. Many people have more than one AAC method, and choose which to use depending on the listener and the situation.

How do people get the AAC system that they need?

It is a good idea to get specialist advice in order to identify the most appropriate AAC system or systems. The starting point is usually to contact the local speech and language therapy service.

Need more information on AAC? Talk to our friendly staff.