What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication?


Communicating is not always easy, indeed. As I am trying to express with my videos and social media, there are certain conditions that make language particularly difficult.

There are cases in which children, or even adults, find it difficult to access verbal communication, that is, to express themselves with words. Whether it is due to a speech, language, developmental or physical disorder.

In these cases, many systems have developed over the years to allow communication even in the absence of words.

I’m talking about Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC.

What does AAC mean?

Augmentative and alternative communication is a set of strategies that can improve communication for all people who have difficulty using verbal language.

It’s called Augmentative, because it aims to expand communication skills through all the methods and channels available.

It’s called Alternative because it uses everything that is alternative to verbal language (words), i.e. signs, figures, photographs, symbols, etc.

Therefore, AAC does not want to replace verbal language: on the contrary, being augmentative, AAC provides for the simultaneous presence of an alternative communication system and verbal language, accompanied by the symbol through the support of the communicative partner (the parent, the therapist, the teacher) who says the word aloud.

Through this method of repeating the word, the child will be able to associate it with the symbol and, over time, they will be able to produce the word rather than the symbol.

One of the best known AAC tools is perhaps the symbol writing system, which in English-speaking countries is called PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System).

In the case of children with severe communication difficulties, such as language, developmental or autism spectrum disorders, the PECS system is able to develop communication skills, because through speech and language therapy the child begins to have the desire to communicate, subsequently something to communicate, the possibility to communicate with skilled and informed partners and, finally, the right tools to carry on the communication.

For this reason, the Augmentative Alternative Communication intervention does not require any prerequisite, in addition to the child’s intention to create communicative exchanges.

This communicative intentionality is the basis on which to develop the various levels of communication, from the most basic levels (communicating primary needs) to advanced levels (expressing a choice, a preference, sharing an interest).

The Augmentative Communication intervention allows children to self-determine and act on the environment.

In addition, the ability to express one’s thoughts or desires limits the frustration associated with the inability to make oneself understood, reduces stress and the occurrence of problematic behaviors in a proportional manner.

It is therefore necessary that the environment and the communication partners who support the person with complex communication needs are extremely welcoming and informed, and also adhere to AAC.

In fact, AAC intervention cannot remain limited to a few hours of weekly rehabilitation. In the life of the person with complex communication needs, AAC must touch the various areas of everyday life.

For this reason, the role of the family is fundamental: to be truly effective, AAC must be able to involve the whole surrounding environment, including less familiar environments, such as schools, recreational environments, up to the public and meeting places of the whole society. In fact, the intervention of AAC has a strong potential in a subject only if the entire network collaborates and participates in this type of communication.

Thanks to my Parent Coaching, you can access more information with which to start AAC intervention at home with your child.

For more information, do not hesitate to contact me here!