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Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a device used to replace communication or assist communication for those who are non-verbal or who have minimal verbal speech and struggle to get their message across. AAC can provide your child with a voice that they once had or that they have never had. AAC can be used as a temporary device to assist your child whilst they are learning language or can be used to replace communication for those who are unable to develop effective communication skills. There are many types of AAC available ranging from simple (no-tech) to complex (high-tech). Each child is treated individually and an AAC device will be chosen based on their needs and goals.

AAC can help children communicate with others effectively and they can perform many communicative functions such as requesting, commenting and refusing that they may not have been able to do before. Research has shown that AAC helps support and develop your child's use of language.

Who is suitable for Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

AAC is suitable for any child that is unable to communicate using their speech or is unable to get their needs met through typical communication means. Some conditions that AAC may be suitable for include:

How to spot a child who needs Augmentative and Alternative Communication

A child who is unable to communicate effectively with others using speech, may not get their needs met. These children may be suitable for an Augmentative and Alternative Communication device to assist them whilst they are learning to communicate or to replace communication when they will be unable to do so. You may be able to spot this if your child does the following:

  • Speech and language skills not developing alongside their peers, or as expected.
  • Has a condition that inhibits typical speech and language development.
  • Speech not adequate enough to reach child’s communicative purposes, such as expressing wants and needs or exchanging information.
  • Child or listener getting increasingly frustrated when communicating.
  • Reduced participation in education and limited access to the curriculum.
  • Independence in daily activities inhibited.

This is not a definitive list and some children that present with these characteristics will not be suitable for an AAC device and will be able to communicate effectively using other means. AAC is constantly reviewed by speech and language therapists, suitability to AAC may change as the child develops more language. Different solutions can always be adopted and the device is always suited best to each child’s needs.

What’s involved in Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

There are many different types of AAC available and the therapy process is continuous as your child develops the ability and different skills required to use the AAC system. Firstly your child will be assessed thoroughly to see what type of AAC is most appropriate for them, then the AAC system will be implemented. This process will take the longest amount of time and your child will not become competent in the system straight away. AAC will take a lot of learning, experimenting and practicing. Implementation of an AAC device will involve lots of modelling and effort from the child and those communicating around them.

The AAC device will be continuously reviewed by the therapist to see if the method is benefitting the child and to see if the device and the language functions can be expanded to cover more communication needs. AAC will also involve training, this may include training of the child using the device, training for parents and family members as well as training for educational staff. This is so that all communicative partners are competent at using the device and will provide strategies on how to communicate with the child effectively.

The different types of AAC that may be offered depending on your child's needs and abilities, include:


This is an AAC device that uses no technology, this includes signing, gestures and body language, written messages, picture exchange systems and picture or alphabet boards. These are most appropriate for younger children that need assistance to develop spoken language or children that have some verbal communication but need help to get their message across clearly and effectively.


This is an AAC device that uses minimal technology, they may be battery operated or have a single source of power. They usually help develop early communicative functions and are easy to programme e.g. have a single button.


These are the more technologically advanced AAC devices that require more time to programme and implement. However, once this is done and the child is competent in using these systems it can provide many communicative functions for the child. These devices are the most appropriate for children with minimal to no spoken language and are unable to communicate physically using sign language.

Improvements made through Augmentative and Alternative Communication

AAC can provide many benefits to your child’s communication and emotional wellbeing. Benefits include:

  • Increased ways of communicating.
  • Opportunity to be able to express messages and needs.
  • Reduced frustration.
  • Increased confidence to communicate.
  • Increased participation in communication and access to the curriculum.
  • Benefits for family and friends.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication can have a range of benefits for your child. It can help provide them with the necessary means to communicate with others.

Speak to one of our therapists further

If you are interested in finding out more information about Augmentative and Alternative Communication, please email office@sltforkids.co.uk or call us on 0330 088 2298.

Talk to us

If you would like any more information on any of the services we offer or would like to book an appointment, do not hesitate to contact us and one of our team will be happy to help. Email office@sltforkids.co.uk or call 0330 088 2298.

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