Augmentative and alternative communication
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Defined (ASHA.org):
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write.
People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional. Special augmentative aids, such as picture and symbol communication boards and electronic devices, are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction, school performance, and feelings of self-worth.
AAC users should not stop using speech if they are able to do so. The AAC aids and devices are used to enhance their communication.
AAC is generally considered to be within the realm of Assistive Technology, but in MDUSD, AAC services are separate from AT services. Our AT Specialist is a special educator who consults to site teams and families to support all students with disabilities in accessing learning and the curriculum, whereas our AAC Specialists are Speech-Language Pathologists who consult to site teams and families to support nonverbal (or limited-verbal) students in accessing the curriculum via communication.
Obtaining AAC Services in MDUSD
“Does AAC impede natural speech?” and other myths
When does a child need AAC?
Selecting the Right AAC System
High Tech vs. Low or No-Tech
Augmentative Communication and Classroom Learning Considerations
No Tech Communication Systems
Choice boards: Objects, pictures, and/or symbols can be used on a choice board to offer students opportunities to communicate the language of snack/leisure activities, learning activities, transitioning, literacy activities, daily living activities, and more.
Communication boards or books: These can be computer generated and/or hand-made. They can range from a single symbol to a single page to multiple pages either stored together or in the actual environments where they will be used.
- Picture or symbol overlays that provide opportunities for students to communicate about specific activities in which they are engaged,
- A general or core overlay to communicate general language across activities and environments,
- A communication overlay to communicate about literacy activity, and more
- Picture exchange systems provide students opportunities to physically give communication picture or symbol during activity or through self-initiation.
- Communication books, wallets
No-tech communication books and boards are usually created using Boardmaker software (usually Mayer-Johnson PCS symbols) or Microsoft Word with the Pics for PECS symbol set. Boardmaker Share is a great resource for downloading pre-made boards and books shared by others in the special ed community.
Low Tech AAC Devices, also called Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs) (not an exhaustive list, but these are the most commonly encountered devices in MDUSD)
Seven Level Communication Builder
GoTalk 32 Express
Lingo Wearable Communicator
High Tech AAC Device (Speech Generating Device, or SGD) Companies (not an exhaustive list, but devices from these companies are the most commonly encountered in MDUSD)
Prentke Romich Company
iPads and iPods can often be implemented successfully as speech generating devices, given certain circumstances
- Here is a document comparing iDevices to traditional SGDs
- Settings personalized to the student’s individual needs and environment
- An appropriate protective case – Here is a page that reviews some of the best
- An appropriate AAC app – The AAC apps most often recommended in MDUSD include: