For a child with autism, communication can be a challenging and difficult hurdle to manage. For some children, verbal communication may simply be an impossible or ineffective means of communicating. For these circumstances, an augmentative/alternative communication device (AAC) may be an answer.
What is AAC?
AAC is an acronym for Augmentative Alternative Communication and describes a communication tool that is substituted for traditional expressive speech to allow a child to communicate. These tools can be low-tech like PECs or an eye gaze board or they can be high-tech speech generating devices. Many insurance companies will cover AAC devices with the proper paperwork.
Use of AAC with Autism
AAC devices can be used at any age and across many settings. Research has been shown to support growth in attention, communicative initiation, expressive and receptive language and pragmatic skill development through use of an AAC.
Many children with autism acquire language early in life and regress quite suddenly. Other children with autism simply develop very few words, if any. With proper intervention, children with autism can explore a variety of options and find better ways to gain speech and language skills. Some research suggest that, when used in intervention, speech devices have resulted in faster progress in therapy.
Use of AAC with the Verbal Child
AAC devices can be used for children with verbal skills as well. One characteristic of autism is echolalia, or the repetition of heard speech. For children who script or repeat in conversation, an AAC device can assist is helping them to formulate novel utterances and to participate in more meaningful conversational turns. More importantly, use of an AAC device will not prevent your child from using and increasing their verbal skills.
Is AAC Right for My Child?
A speech-language pathologist with a concentration in AAC devices can assist you and your child in determining the appropriate device based on individual needs and skills.
To read about common misconceptions about augmentative and alternative communications, click here.
For more information and resources of AAC devices for autism, check out The Center for AAC and Autism’s website.