Assistive Technology Network

What is AAC?

A child speaking ASL

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. When we communicate we often use methods to either augment (add to) our message or as an alternative to speaking. Facial expressions, gestures, symbols, pictures, and writing are everyday examples of AAC forms.

AAC systems are generally divided into two categories: unaided and aided. Unaided systems use the speaker’s body to convey the message. These may include:

  • pointing
  • looking at the object in question
  • gestures
  • sign language
  • facial expressions.

Aided AAC systems require the use of a device or tool to assist in conveying the message. These may include:

  • pictures or communication symbols
  • switch activated recordings of common messages
  • speech generating devices
  • computers.

People with severe speech or language concerns may rely on many forms of AAC depending on their communication partner. AAC systems can supplement existing speech or replace speech that cannot be understood by others. Using AAC systems may increase social interaction, school performance, and an individual’s ability to interact with others.
For more information about Meeting the Needs of Low Verbal and Non-Verbal Students, click on this link.