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Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

What is AAC?

AAC is short for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. Devices/tools which support or replace verbal communication are known as AAC.

Augmentative means to add to, or to supplement. Augmentative communication is when you add something to it (such as using Key Word Sign, a picture, or a gesture). Rather than replacing verbal communication, these allow the listener to better understand the verbal message that is being provided.

Alternative means another option or choice. Alternative communication is when we use a communication method other than verbal speech to communicate our message.

Who uses AAC? Why?

IAAC can be used be a range of people, from very young children to adults. They may be used to support the communication of someone who hasn’t yet started talking, or whose communication skills have deteriorated. They may be used because verbal communication is difficult, or a person may be able to express themselves better using a different method. AAC might be used for a short period of time, or throughout a person’s life.

Consider… We all use alternative and augmentative methods of communication to support us every day (have you ever written a note to a colleague during a meeting? Or used gesture to show someone where to go while explaining at the same time? Have you made up your own gestures/signs for items when you’ve lost your voice?).

What are the different types of AAC?

AAC is often spoken about in different categories such as low and high tech.

Low tech AAC

Requires no power (can also be split in to aided and unaided – those needing/not needing a physical tool)

-Facial expressions
-Sign language (both Key Word Sign and formal languages such as Auslan)

-Communication books
-Alphabet charts

High tech AAC

Requires power/a device to use

-Speech Generating Devices
-AAC apps on phones/iPads
-Eye gaze systems

Photo of Proloquo2go communication system

Things to remember

- AAC is not “one size fits all”,an assessment is required to find the best option, and then a trial is usually recommended. Some people may need more than one form of AAC to meet their needs.

- Individuals need time to learn to use their AAC, practice, practice, practice.

- Learning to use AAC requires communication partners who are patient and will take the time to listen and understand a message - and learn to use the AAC system alongside them.

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