Speech Connection, LLC

Alternative and Augmentative Communication

What is Alternative and Augmentative Communication?

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech), that are used to express our thoughts, wants and needs.

People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is non-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.

What are types of AAC?

When children or adults cannot use speech to communicate effectively in all situations, there are other options.

Unaided communication systems rely on the user’s body to convey messages. Examples include gestures, body language, and/or 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 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.

Speech generating devices (SGD), also known as voice output communication aids, are electronic augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems used to supplement or replace speech or writing for individuals with severe speech impairments, enabling them to verbally communicate their needs.

SGDs are important for people who have limited means of interacting verbally, as they allow individuals to become active participants in communication interactions. An AAC evaluation is conducted with trials of about 3 devices over periods of 3 or more visits. A device sales representative is usually present during the evaluation.

The sales representative brings different devices with or without accessories to see which device best serves the client’s needs.  For individuals who cannot use their fingers or hands there are communication aids such as switches and eye gaze accessories to facilitate the use of the devices. 

After a device has been selected therapy is conducted with the loaner device. Special care is taken to select the appropriate device for the client.  It is essential to pick a device that will grow with the clients needs for five or more years. Medicaid and Medicare as well as certain insurance carriers will approve for speech generating devices.