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Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Effective communication is central to our daily lives and occurs when the intent and meaning of one individual is understood by another person. Not all communication is spoken; however people who are unable to speak often face communication challenges. Speech pathologists can assist people who are not able to use speech to meet their communication needs.

What is AAC?

The term AAC stands for augmentative and alternative forms of communication. AAC is a set of tools, strategies and techniques which support or replace spoken communication to assist an individual to solve every day communicative challenges. AAC techniques include gesture, signing, symbols, facial expressions, vocalisations, word boards, communication boards and books, as well as speech generating devices. A speech pathologist can assist your child and your family in choosing appropriate AAC systems that will allow effective communication to occur.

What are the types of AAC systems?

There are many types of AAC and usually a child who has difficulties with communication will use a combination of AAC methods. Generally AAC is divided into the following categories:

  • Unaided communication systems – rely on the user's body to convey messages. Examples include gestures, body language, touch, facial expressions and sign language.
  • Aided communication systems – require the use of tools or equipment in addition to the user's body. Aided communication methods can range from paper and pencil for writing or drawing, to communication books or boards to devices that produce voice output (speech generating devices or SGD's) and/or written output. Electronic communication aids allow the user to use picture symbols, letters, and/or words and phrases to create messages. Some devices can be programmed to produce different spoken languages.

What is the best type of AAC system? Or how can a speech pathologist help with AAC?

There is no ‘best’ type of AAC system. Each has pros and cons and the most suitable one for an individual will depend on their personal preference as well as on their abilities and communication needs. Specialist assessment by a speech pathologist will help to identify the most appropriate AAC system or systems.

To enquire about Mater Health and Wellness’ Augmentative and Alternative Communication service please phone 07 3163 6000.

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