What is AAC?

AAC is an acronym for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). Some children and adults have limited expressive communication and are not able to adequately verbally communicate to meet a variety of needs (e.g., requesting, protesting, commenting, responding to questions). These people often benefit from availability of AAC systems. AAC includes all the alternative ways we can use to express our thoughts, that isn’t verbal speech. We use AAC when we send a text message, use emojis, make facial expressions or gestures.

Unaided and Aided Communication Systems

Unaided systems do not require anything other than the user’s own body and can include sign language, eye gaze, body languages or gestures, and facial expressions. An aided system uses materials or equipment to augment communication and can be low-tech or high-tech. Examples of low-tech systems are a communication board or Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) with the child uses pictures and other symbols to communicate. Recorded speech devices, iPad apps, and speech generative devices referred to as “durable medical equipment” are considered to be high-tech communication systems.

Collaboration with an SLP

An SLP can work with you and your child to introduce AAC and find the right AAC system for you. It may take time and it is important to know that not every device will work for everyone, and you may need to trial more than one system. For those who are concerned about the development of verbal speech, AAC will not prevent a person from using verbal speech if they are able to. Research suggests that AAC does not prevent the development of speech and my actually support speech production (Millar, Light, & Schlosser, 2006).


High-tech AAC using Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP). It uses an approach based on motor learning principles to develop communication skills.