Written by Lauren Criniti, M.S., CCC‑SLP
When it comes to our clients who need a communication system beyond verbal language, AAC is the next best thing. AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication and involves communicating via non-verbal methods. Augmentative refers to any speech or language output in addition to verbal language. Alternative refers to systems in place of verbal language.
So, who benefits from AAC? In reality, anyone! Systems can range from no and low tech options, all the way to highly technical devices. No and low-tech forms include gestures, signs, writing, drawing, spelling words, and pointing to pictures or words (ASHA). High tech forms are commonly seen as software on iPads with an alternative voice output or with an eye gaze device. Any form of AAC is essential as a way for a person’s message to be communicated to the people around them.
In our day-to-day lives, AAC is used by everyone in various forms. It’s simply receiving and sending messages to others without speaking. For example, think about that time you couldn’t reach the top shelf in the store. An employee comes over to ask what you need help with, and you point to the item on the shelf. Right there, you have utilized an AAC system to assist you in sending your message.
Regardless of your child’s speech and language skills, a whole team approach is essential to choosing the right communication system so a child can express their wants, needs, thoughts and ideas. A Speech Language Pathologist is an inherent part of your child’s care team when it comes to evaluating and determining a system specific for your child’s needs. The Occupational Therapist brings knowledge of fine motor skills needed when utilizing devices, and provide valuable information related to how a child’s skills in this area may effect the success of the device (e.g., will pointing be impacted? Can they easily pull items off of Velcro? etc.). Physical Therapists identify the best way a child can use their gross motor skills to transport their system around their school, home, and out in the community. And finally, Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are essential in determining what contexts and functions the device is used for by the child.
Finding the Right Fit
When determining what AAC devices are appropriate and how to integrate them, the team at SPG-CT considers the following factors during an evaluation:
- Current expressive and receptive language skills
- Reading and writing skills
- Physical abilities including mobility
- Communication partners and activities
No matter how low tech or high tech a communication system may be, AAC should always be considered an option to allow everyone, regardless of language skills, the right to communicate. Age is just a number when it comes to utilizing AAC! Children and adults of all ages and abilities can benefit from an AAC system. In addition, AAC is a great way to boost language skills. It will NOT negatively impact communicative abilities.
Thinking about an AAC system for your child or family member? Contact us for any future AAC considerations or necessary evaluations!
For more information on AAC, visit ASHA.