Understanding the Role of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) in Speech Therapy

Written by Team TE

June 26, 2024

Content by: Karalynne Alliss | Therapeutic Endeavors Intern

Communication is a fundamental human need, enabling us to express thoughts, emotions, and needs. For individuals with severe speech and language impairments, traditional verbal communication might not be possible or sufficient. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems provide these individuals with essential tools to communicate effectively. This blog post delves into what AAC is, its types, benefits, and how it can be integrated into speech therapy to enhance communication skills.

What is AAC?

AAC encompasses all forms of communication other than oral speech that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. This can include gestures, sign language, symbols, pictures, and writing. AAC is divided into two main categories:

  • Unaided Communication Systems: These do not require external tools and rely on the user’s body to communicate. Examples include gestures, facial expressions, and sign language.
  • Aided Communication Systems: These involve the use of tools or equipment in addition to the user’s body. Examples range from picture boards and letter boards to advanced electronic devices that produce spoken language.

Types of AAC

No-Tech AAC methods do not involve any technology. Examples include gestures, sign language, and manual communication boards with symbols or pictures that individuals can point to.

Low-Tech AAC includes simple tools that are easy to use and do not require batteries or electricity. Examples are the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), where individuals use pictures to communicate their needs and wants, and communication books or boards with symbols, pictures, or words that individuals can point to in order to communicate.

High-Tech AAC involves electronic devices that can generate speech. These devices range from simple single-message devices to complex speech-generating devices (SGDs), including speech-generating devices that produce spoken language when the user selects symbols, words, or letters, and AAC apps on tablets designed for communication.

Benefits of AAC

AAC provides numerous benefits for individuals with speech and language impairments. It allows individuals to express themselves more clearly and effectively, empowering users to communicate without relying on others to interpret their needs. AAC also facilitates participation in social interactions, leading to better relationships and social skills, supports learning by enabling students to communicate in the classroom, and reduces frustration, improving overall quality of life by providing a means to express thoughts and feelings.

Integrating AAC into Speech Therapy

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a crucial role in assessing, selecting, and training individuals to use AAC systems. They conduct comprehensive assessments to determine the most appropriate AAC system based on the individual’s needs, abilities, and preferences. AAC systems are tailored to suit the unique requirements of each user, ensuring maximum effectiveness. SLPs provide training to the individual, their family, and caregivers on how to use the AAC system effectively, with continuous monitoring and adjustment of the AAC system to meet the changing needs of the user. SLPs work closely with educators, healthcare providers, and family members to integrate AAC use across different settings and activities.

Final Thoughts

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems offer invaluable support to individuals with severe speech and language impairments, providing them with the means to communicate effectively and lead more fulfilling lives. Integrating AAC into speech therapy not only enhances communication skills but also fosters independence, social interaction, and emotional well-being. By understanding and embracing AAC, we can help unlock the full potential of individuals facing communication challenges.


Communication is the bridge that connects hearts and minds, turning thoughts into actions and dreams into reality.

Communication is more than just exchanging words; it is the essence of human connection. This quote emphasizes the profound impact of communication as a bridge that unites people, allowing us to share our thoughts, feelings, and aspirations. At Therapeutic Endeavors, we understand that effective communication can transform lives. By helping individuals overcome speech and language barriers, we enable them to connect deeply with others, fostering meaningful relationships and unlocking their full potential. Whether through speech therapy or advanced AAC tools, our goal is to turn the power of communication into a reality for everyone, making dreams achievable and actions impactful.

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