Welcome to the Speech and Language Kids Podcast!  Today we’re talking about how, when, and why to use AAC or augmentative-alternative communication devices and systems.  AAC allows children who are not able to talk to use something else to communicate with those around them.  Every child has the right to communication and it is our job as speech-language pathologists to figure out a way for every child to do just that.  This podcast will go over the basics of what is AAC, how to use it to help a child communicate, when it is appropriate to use AAC, and why it should be considered as an option for non-verbal and minimally-verbal children.  Click the play button below to hear the whole podcast, or scroll down to read the quick notes.

Click Here to Download a Free AAC Cheat Sheet

Show Notes:

What is Augmentative/Alternative Communication (AAC)?

AAC is the term used to describe any form of communication that a person can use that is not speech.  This may include pointing to pictures of what the person wants, using sign language, or using a device that will speak a message when a specific button is pushed.

When Should AAC be Considered for a Child?

AAC should be considered for any child when his/her speech output is not adequate to communicate everything that the child wants/needs to communicate.

Things to consider:

  • Child’s frustration levels
  • Adult frustration levels
  • Access to school curriculum
  • Participation in classroom activities
  • Ability to demonstrate knowledge to teachers
  • Access to home and community environment
  • Ability to interact appropriately with family and peers
  • Independence in developmentally-appropriate daily activities

 What Prerequisite Skills Does a Child Need Before Trying AAC?

In short, there are no skills that a child MUST have before AAC can be tried.  Though, here are a few of the common misconceptions about this:

These are commonly used as excuses why AAC devices should not be attempted with children but these are WRONG:

  • The child must understand cause and effect (AAC teaches cause and effect quite effectively)
  • The child must understand that a picture represents an object (again, AAC teaches this)
  • Child must have good enough motor skills for AAC (there are lots of alternatives for children who can’t access a device with their hands)
  • Child must understand enough language for AAC use (babies don’t have great language before they are introduced to speech)
  • Child must be interested in communicating (even inappropriate behaviors can be shaped into intentional communication)

For more information about these “prerequisites”, click the link: http://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/what-are-the-prerequisites-for-using-an-aac-device-augmentativealternative-communication/

Options for AAC devices, methods, and systems

  • Gestures/Body Language
  • Sign Language
  • Object Symbols (objects glued to cards)
  • Picture Boards
  • Picture Exchange
  • Written Messages (paper or typed)
  • Single Button Voice-Output Devices
  • Multi-Button Voice-Output Devices
  • Dynamic-Display Voice-Output Devices

Download the free PDF cheat sheet of the different types of AAC here:

Click Here to Download a Free AAC Cheat Sheet

How to Introduce the System:

Make it as natural as possible.  Think of it as similar to how you would encourage a late talker to talk.

  1. Get Familiar with the Child’s System
  2. Model AAC Use Around the Child
  3. Encourage the Child When he Attempts to Use it and Provide Differential Reinforcement
  4. Have the Device Present at All Times
  5. Set Up Opportunities for the Child to Use the AAC Device (in the classroom, at home, in speech, etc.)
  6. Train Other Adults on How to Set Up Opportunities and Provide Differential Reinforcement

For more info on getting started, click the link: http://www.speechandlanguagekids.com/help-child-use-aac-home-classroom-hint-easier-think/

More Resources for Speech-Language Pathologists:

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