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What is AAC?

Updated: Jul 6


In the realm of communication disorders, AAC stands for augmentative and alternative communication. This designation typically refers to people who need alternative means, beyond spoken words, to effectively communicate. These AAC systems, also known as communication devices, are sometimes recommended for both temporary and long-term use.


When it comes to communication, many of us instinctively use alternative and augmentative methods to connect with others. This might involve pointing at objects, using gestures to convey concepts such as size or place, using a certain tone of voice, or using items or pictures to communicate when faced with language barriers. We seamlessly use these alternative forms of communication, often without conscious thought.

In the field of speech and language therapy, AAC devices or methods come into play for individuals who face challenges in expressing their wants, needs, and ideas through traditional speech. Speech Language Pathologists, or SLPs, play a crucial role in evaluating and recommending the most suitable device based on the individual's needs and abilities. The recommendations typically fall into one of three AAC categories: low-tech, mid-tech, or high-tech devices.


Low-tech AAC devices are also referred to as 'no-tech' systems because they typically demand no technical expertise or training to use. Examples of these low or 'no' tech devices include communication boards, communication books, the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), letter boards, and gestures or sign language. Despite being low-tech, these methods necessitate varying degrees of cognitive, language, literacy, and motor function and are not suitable for every individual.

Moving into the mid-tech category, devices in this range are modestly technical but more involved than their low-tech counterparts. Examples in this category include the Big Mac and QuickTalker series from Abelnet, Speech Tablet, Logan ProxTalker and the Go Talk series.

High-tech options include various apps such as Touch Chat, LAMP Words for Life, Speech Assistant, LetMeTalk, and Proloquo2go. In addition to apps, there are dedicated devices from different manufacturers, including PRC-Saltilo, Talk To Me Technologies, and Dynavox, among others.


If you wish to explore whether you or someone you know might benefit from an AAC system, contact a speech-language pathologist for a consult and evaluation. They can provide the appropriate assessments and give necessary recommendations. In some cases, insurance companies and school districts cover some or all cost based on medical or educational needs.


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