Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) 

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Children and adults with severe speech or language problems may need to find other ways to communicate besides talking. There are many types of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) they can use. Speech-language pathologists, or SLPs, can help. 

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About AAC 

AAC means all of the ways that someone communicates besides talking. People of all ages can use AAC if they have trouble with speech or language skills. Augmentative means to add to someone’s speech. Alternative means to be used instead of speech. Some people use AAC throughout their life. Others may use AAC only for a short time, like when they have surgery and can’t talk.

There are a lot of different types of AAC. No-tech and low-tech options include things like

  • gestures and facial expressions,
  • writing,
  • drawing,
  • spelling words by pointing to letters, and
  • pointing to photos, pictures, or written words.

High-tech options include things like

  • using an app on an iPad or tablet to communicate and
  • using a computer with a “voice," sometimes called a speech-generating device.

A person may use different types of AAC because there are many ways that we all communicate. An AAC system means all of the tools of this type that a person uses.

Working With A Speech-Language Pathologist 

An SLP can help find the right AAC system for you or your loved one. They also help you and the people you talk with learn how to use AAC to communicate. Not every tool works for every person, so it is important to find the right one for you. SLPs work with other professionals like occupational therapists and physical therapists if you have different physical skills that affect how you access your AAC system. Some AAC tools are covered by insurance, but some are not. Your SLP can help you understand your options.

Common Concerns

You may have questions or concerns about using AAC. Professionals have been studying AAC for years, so we’ve learned a lot about how AAC helps people communicate. Here are some of the areas that research has helped us understand.

Age, Skills, and Timing

Some people wonder if children need to be a certain age before they can use AAC. Research shows that AAC helps people of all ages (even those younger than 3 years old)! You can use AAC early. There are no thinking skills, test scores, or other milestones that you need to reach before AAC can help.

Talking and Motivation

A lot of people wonder if using AAC will stop someone from talking or will slow down language development. This is not true—research shows that AAC can actually help with these concerns! People who use AAC can also learn how to read and write.


You might wonder how someone can use AAC if they have trouble moving their arms and hands. There are many ways to use an AAC system besides touching it. Your SLP may work with occupational therapists (OTs) and physical therapists (PTs) to find the best way for each person to use their AAC system.


You probably have other questions. The best person to talk to about AAC is an SLP. A good place to find an SLP who specializes in AAC is ASHA’s Profind.

Other Resources 

This list does not include every website on this topic. ASHA does not endorse the information on these sites.  

To find an SLP near you, visit ProFind.

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