Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Children with severe speech or language problems may need to find other ways to communicate. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, often shortened to AAC, encompasses designing communication methods to supplement or replace spoken or written language to create the best possible communication system to help children communicate to their full potential.

Augment means to improve or enhance. One can augment communication by using body language, eye pointing or gestures.

Alternative means a choice or a substitute. One can choose alternative communication from speech by signing, spelling or pointing to symbols.

Communication means sending or receiving information from one or more people.


Augmentative and Alternative Communication is the umbrella term for all communication that is not speech. It uses alternative types of communication to augment and enhance communication.

Research shows that using an AAC device will not hinder the normal growth and development of your child’s speech and language. Children will use the quickest and most efficient way to communicate. Instead of preventing normal development, AAC facilitates spoken language by giving the child a ‘voice’ and increasing interaction and social engagement with others. However, simply providing your child an AAC device does not guarantee that your child will pick it up and use it. There must be interest and ability as well. Additionally, there are many options, methods, and tools from which to choose. It can include one or more of the following options:


  • Object symbols - keys can represent it’s time to go
  • Photos, drawings, symbols - used to represent words
  • Chat books - small books such as a photo album that may contain photos, drawings, symbols, words or messages about the person
  • Communication boards - sets of photos, drawings, symbols or words used by an individual for communication
  • Speech generating devices - communication boards which speak a message when a certain button is pushed