Speech Therapy: What is AAC!?!

Your speech-language pathologist/speech therapist may recommend that your child could benefit from AAC, but what is AAC?

Speech Language Pathology Pediatric Speech therapy Chicago

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a term used to encompass all forms of communication, other than oral speech, to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC to communicate throughout the day. We may use gestures and facial expressions to supplement our oral speech. We may email, text, or even use emojis, as additional ways to communicate in a variety of environments.

Children and adults with speech-language difficulties rely on AAC to supplement speech or provide more functional communication. AAC users should never stop using what verbal communication they have. Instead, AAC should enhance your child’s existing communication.

Speech Language Pathology Pediatric Speech therapy Chicago 1

Children in speech-language treatment can benefit from a variety of AAC options. Most often the speech therapist will implement manual sign language, picture icons, communication boards/books, or speech generating devices (SGDs).  Speech generating devices allow your child to use picture symbols, letters, or words to communicate with an electronic device. Research shows more positive outcomes with children who receive speech-language intervention in the early years of development, so it is important to think about your child’s use of age-appropriate concepts and word combinations if they have limited oral speech.

AAC Myths:

* My child is too young to use AAC.

* AAC will keep my child from talking.

* I must try low technology AAC before providing a speech generating device.

* If my child has some speech, then AAC is not needed.

* If my child can express basic needs, then AAC is not needed.

* AAC can only be implemented by the speech-language pathologist (SLP).

Talk to a speech-language pathologist today at Chicago Pediatric Therapy & Wellness Center if you are having concerns with your child’s expressive language skills!




DeThorne, L., Johnson, C., Walder, L., & Mahurin-Smith, J. (2009). When “Simon Says” doesn’t work: Alternatives to imitation for facilitating early speech development. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 18

Schlosser, R., & Wendt, O., (2008). Effects of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on speech production in children with autism: A systematic review. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 17, 212-230.

Millar, D., Light, J., & Schlosser, R. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 49, 248

About Lauren Gabrys

Lauren Gabrys, M.A., CCC-SLP Lauren received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology from Northwestern University and her Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Santa Clara University in California. Lauren holds an Illinois State License in Speech-Language Pathology and the ASHA Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC). While attending graduate school, Lauren had the opportunity to work in an elementary school and a high school classroom for students diagnosed on the autism spectrum. Post graduate school, she has had the opportunity to work in pediatric clinics alongside occupational and physical therapists. Her professional experience and interests include articulation disorders, language delays, autism spectrum disorders, developmental delays, and fluency disorders. Lauren has also attended continuing education conferences to increase professional development on pediatric feeding issues, autism, childhood apraxia of speech, selective mutism, Beckman oral motor approach to feeding and articulation, social language skills in preschool children, and speech generating devices.
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One Response to Speech Therapy: What is AAC!?!

  1. April Cook says:

    This was very interesting to read. My nephew is having speech problems and gets very frustrated when he can’t communicate. I think using sign language would be a way to help relieve his frustration and anxiety about communicating. How early can you start teaching kids manual sign language? Thanks for this helpful information.

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