Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a term which covers a range of techniques that support spoken language. It aims to support people to communicate basic needs and wants. It makes communication quick, simple and as effective as possible when speech is delayed or impaired. It improves quality of life and offers people opportunities in their family life, education, social life, friendships and employment. AAC also helps to increase independence and promotes equality for people with difficulty communicating. Here are five common myths about AAC.

  1. AAC is a machine that can produce speech

There are two main types of AAC: unaided communication and aided communication. Unaided communication does not involve any additional equipment. This includes: Makaton Key Word Signs, pointing and facial expressions. Aided communication requires external tools to support communication. This includes low-tech AAC such as pictures, symbols, communication charts and the Picture Exchange Communication Systems (PECS); and high-tech, power-based AAC such as Proloquo2go and Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP), which have a voice-output system that speaks/produces text.

  1. Only children who are non-verbal need AAC

Not necessarily. For some children with language delay, using AAC can be viewed as a transitional tool. Some children who use AAC at a younger age move onto spoken language once they are ready. It can be viewed as an ‘add-on’ especially when they are still learning to understand different spoken information. It also helps to alleviate the pressure around their communication.

  1. AAC will stop my child from talking

No. Research demonstrates that using AAC does not prevent a child from learning to talk. In fact, many children make gains in their expressive speech because AAC helps to build successful communication and reduces frustration.

  1. High-tech AAC is better than low-tech AAC

There is no best type of AAC. Each system has its pros and cons and it depends on the person’s abilities and preferences. For children with communication difficulties, a ‘Total Communication’ approach is strongly encouraged as it makes use of the different modes of communication skills a child already has. For example, a child can greet a teacher by waving his hand, point to his name tag when taking attendance, and ask for a snack using PECS or LAMP.

  1. A young child is not ready for AAC

For children with physical disabilities, cerebral palsy or profound and multiple learning difficulties, it is best to introduce AAC as early as possible. This often starts with unaided communication such as pointing or Makaton Key Word Signs, and then gradually moves onto communication devices depending on their abilities and medical prognosis. If you would like to know more about whether AAC is for your child, speak to your Speech and Language Therapist today.