Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Q&A
Commonly Asked Questions about AAC
My child gets very frustrated when she cannot communicate something. Would AAC help?
Absolutely! This is one of the biggest reasons to introduce AAC methods—to decrease the child’s frustration.
Does screaming/tantruming mean my child needs AAC?
There are many reasons why children, especially young children, may have tantrums. Being unable to communicate is certainly one reason. If you are observing that tantrums are often related to difficulty communicating, then yes, AAC may help.
What is the best AAC method for my child who is saying more words weekly but still experiencing frequent communication breakdown?
Encouragement to use simple, easy-to-learn AAC methods like gestures or picture boards is probably one of the best methods to support children in the interim to becoming successful verbal communicators.
What can I do to help my child use AAC successfully?
There are several things you can do including:
•Modeling the AAC methods - Children learn by watching adults, so using signs/pictures/or the device yourself will provide your child with a model of how to use it.
•Make it relevant and motivating – Many parents and even speech-language pathologists (SLPs) will include vocabulary related to basic needs (like the potty) when the child would be much more interested in using the AAC system to ask for a favorite toy. Think carefully about what is most motivating for your child.
•Make it accessible – If you are using pictures or an electronic system, make sure it is always readily available. Placing picture boards in areas of the home the correspond to activities (e.g. pictures so the child can request favorite bath toys near the bathtub) will make it more likely that the child will benefit from the AAC methods.
My child's SLP is asking me what vocabulary words to put on picture boards. What should I think about?
Start with vocabulary that helps children gain access to preferred objects and activities, as this encourages the child’s engagement with and use of the AAC method. Also, children need a means to ask questions, such as "what's that?" or "where's Daddy?" so consider including question words as well.
I am concerned that using AAC methods will decrease my child’s motivation to speak. Does that happen?
No; in fact, research shows that giving children access to AAC methods often increases their rate of verbal communication gains, possibly because the child attempts to communicate more often.
Do I need to seek out an SLP who specializes in AAC?
Most SLPs are familiar with simple, low-tech AAC methods to promote short-term communication success. However, if you child is expected to need AAC longer term or needs a high-tech communication system because of motor, vision, or cognitive impairments, then your SLP may recommend consultation with an SLP who specializes in AAC.
If you have more questions about AAC, the following resources provide a great deal of information.
Child Apraxia Treatment provides resources to both parents and clinicians on evidence-based assessment and treatment of childhood apraxia of speech, including the Dynamic Temporal and Tactile Cueing (DTTC) treatment method.