Many people who cannot speak but use AAC are multi-modal communicators. This means they have multiple ways to communicate their messages. As well as AAC, they might use vocalizations, word approximations, and maybe some gesture and sign language. Many people show photos from their camera roll to add to what they are saying. All different methods of communication should be valued and respected. Different communication still tells us something!
Even people with some spoken communication, may benefit from AAC. If speech is limited, AAC can help. It can give a person more words and language. They may communicate far more with AAC than they can with speech alone.
Benefits of AAC
Many people who cannot rely on speech, could benefit from AAC. And there are challenges when people do not have AAC.
People who use AAC describe benefits
- stronger friendships and deeper relationships
- richer, more frequent social interactions
- deeper social roles: family member, friend, professional, student
- increased autonomy and decision-making power over their own life
- increased independence
- more respect from others
- greater participation in their family lives and communities
- improved information sharing with physicians
- improved personal safety in a variety of care settings, such as hospitals or long-term facilities
- more employment and volunteer opportunities
- improved physical and mental health
Challenges for people without AAC
There are often difficulties without AAC, when someone cannot talk reliably.
People who use AAC say that, prior to having a communication system, they experienced:
- more social isolation and loneliness
- increased frustration and acting out with loved ones
- greater vulnerability, especially when alone in a care setting
- feeling shut out of important decisions over their own life
- inability to show what they know or can learn
The AAC journey
Communication is a fundamental human right. A person with speech impediments or disorders can communicate with AAC.
Before starting, you may still wonder whether AAC is really needed. Will AAC be beneficial? When should we consider AAC? If you need help answering these questions, please check the “Do we need AAC?” article.
If you are using symbols and wish to make plans that support change and progress, please use our Learn AAC Guide. This may help you to consider selecting the right AAC system for a person, getting set up for AAC and then helping to build language and real communication.
Good luck, please reach out to our support team if you need any help along the way!
The AssistiveWare team
Links & references
- ASHA. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. [Article and references]
- Ahern, Kate. (2014). Why "prove it with low tech first" doesn't work. [Blog post]
- Beukelman, D., & Mirenda, P. (2013). Augmentative and Alternative Communication (4th Ed.). Baltimore: Paul H. Brookes.
- Brady, N. C., Bruce, S., Goldman, A., Erickson, K., Mineo, B., Ogletree, B. T., Paul, D., Romski, M., Sevcik, R., Siegel, E., Schoonover, J., Snell, M., Sylvester, L., & Wilkinson, K. (2016). Communication services and supports for individuals with severe disabilities: Guidance for assessment and intervention. American Journal on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, 121(2), 121–138.
- Farrall, Jane. (2015). AAC: Don’t Demand Prerequisite Skills. [Blog post]
- Kangas, Kathleen & Lloyd, Lyle. (2009). Early Cognitive Skills As Prerequisites to Augmentative and Alternative Communication Use: What Are We Waiting For?. Augmentative and Alternative Communication. 4. 211-221.
- Light, J., & McNaughton, D. (2014). Communicative competence for individuals who require augmentative and alternative communication: A new definition for a new era of communication? Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 30, 1–18.
- LoStracco, Heidi. (2014).The Myth of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Pre-Requisite Skills. [Blog post]
- National Joint Committee for the Communication Needs of Persons With Severe Disabilities. NJC on AAC. [Article]
- Rocky Bay. (2010 & 2019). Positive AACtion: Information Kit for AAC teams. [Collection of articles]
- Romski, M.A. & Sevcik, R.A. (2005). Augmentative communication and early intervention: myths and realities. Infants and Young Children 18 (3), 174.