Understanding how AAC can support your child with a disability



What is AAC?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. It includes a range of systems, devices, strategies and tools that replace or support verbal speech.

The first A in AAC stands for “Augmentative” which means to add to or supplement something. In communication, this is when you add something to your speech to make your message clearer, such as a gesture or facial expression.

The second A is for “Alternative” meaning options that can replace verbal speech as a method of communicating for those who are not able to speak or are not easily understood. These include speech generating devices, PODD books and so on.

Augmentative and alternative strategies can go hand in hand to support overall communication and may encourage verbal speech. Communication strategies, such as using signing to supplement verbal speech, can be both augmentative and alternative.

Who uses AAC?

There is no one type of child who can use and potentially benefit from AAC. Many children who experience challenges with verbal speech and communication can be supported to express their thoughts, wants and needs through AAC. Children with disabilities, such as physical disability, developmental disability and acquired disorders such as brain injuries, may use a range of different AAC.

Types of AAC

There are different types of AAC and your child’s Speech Pathologist will work with you and your child to find the best methods to suit your child’s needs. The different methods of AAC are usually broken down into two categories, they are unaided and aided.

Unaided AAC

Unaided AAC doesn’t require the use of a physical aid or tool. So your child uses whatever is available to them which is generally their own body. Unaided AAC includes:

  • eye contact
  • facial expression
  • body language
  • gestures
  • signing

Aided AAC

Aided AAC uses tools, devices or materials and is further divided into two types. They are low-tech and high-tech.

  • Low-tech AAC doesn’t need a battery or power and includes:
    • communication books
    • PODD books
    • symbol boards
    • choice cards
  • High-tech AAC requires power and/or batteries and includes:
    • speech generating devices
    • apps on mobile devices
    • digital PODD books

Benefits of AAC

There are so many benefits that we see in children who are supported to communicate through AAC. These can include:

  • increased independence as they can communicate more autonomously
  • greater participation with family, friends and in communities
  • increased participation in education
  • stronger friendships and social interactions
  • increased confidence and sense of self-worth
  • feeling that they are included and that their thoughts matter
  • decreased frustration as they can better communicate their thoughts, wants and needs
  • improved mental wellbeing
  • feeling more included and less lonely

Your child’s AAC journey

Every child’s journey with AAC will be different. At Xavier, our Speech Pathologists are here to support your child at every step. For further information on how we’re supporting children through AAC or to understand how AAC can help your child, give our team a call on 1800 XAVIER, visit our Speech Therapy page or email intake@xavier.org.au