American Speech-Language-Hearing Association
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Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

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What is AAC?

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write.

People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional. Special augmentative aids, such as picture and symbol communication boards and electronic devices, are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction, school performance, and feelings of self-worth.

AAC users should not stop using speech if they are able to do so. The AAC aids and devices are used to enhance their communication.

What are the types of AAC systems?

When children or adults cannot use speech to communicate effectively in all situations, there are options.

Unaided communication systems – rely on the user's body to convey messages. Examples include gestures, body language, and/or sign language.

Aided communication systems – require the use of tools or equipment in addition to the user's body. Aided communication methods can range from paper and pencil to communication books or boards to devices that produce voice output (speech generating devices or SGD's)and/or written output. Electronic communication aids allow the user to use picture symbols, letters, and/or words and phrases to create messages. Some devices can be programmed to produce different spoken languages.

To contact a speech-language pathologist, visit ASHA's Find a Professional.

What other organizations have information on AAC?

This list is not exhaustive and inclusion does not imply endorsement of the organization or the context of the Web site by ASHA.

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What does an SLP do when working with individuals who use AAC?

ASHA has developed a number of documents outlining the role of the SLP with AAC. These documents include:

The Preferred Practice Patterns for the Profession of Speech-Language Pathology outline the common practices followed by SLPs when engaging in various aspects of the profession. The Preferred Practice Patterns for AAC assessment and intervention are outlined in Sections 26 and 27.

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