Myths about Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)
What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)? It is the communication systems, strategies and tools that replace or supplement natural speech. It is used by a wide variety of children and adults with a variety of diagnoses. It is a way to allow someone to speak and communicate with others around them. AAC can be a variety of systems. It can be a picture board, an iPad with a communication system, a dedicated device, gestures, body language, keyboards, etc. No two AAC systems are the same. They are unique to each individual person that uses them.
However, like most new things, there are myths about what AAC will and will not do. So what are the myths about AAC?
• A device will hinder speech development
• AAC may become a “crutch” for individuals with developmental disabilities, negatively impacting the emergence of speech
• Individuals with developmental disabilities may prefer to use AAC and may not be motivated to learn to use speech to communicate. This is because they perceive AAC is an easier way to communicate compared to natural speech.
The myths listed above are simply not true! According to an study and published article by Millar, Light, and Schlosser (2006), all but one of the seventeen participants (94%) demonstrated increased speech production when using AAC during intervention. Positive effects of AAC on speech production were observed across children and adults. AAC has significant benefits in the development of communicative competence and language skills. By modeling and using appropriate language, AAC will not only help build a child’s vocabulary, but also build their expressive and receptive language.
It should be noted that research has shown that an increase of speech production does not immediately occur when beginning the use of an AAC devise. This may be because children are still learning the communication device. It is believed that once a child learns how to use the device that those learned skills can be used for speech production.
Overall, the myths that having a child using an AAC device will hinder their overall speech/language development is simply not true. It actually supports speech production. AAC offers significant benefits for individuals with developmental disabilities in enhancing their communication competence and promoting language development. If your Speech Language Pathologist suggests getting an AAC device, please don’t quickly dismiss the idea. But instead, think of all of the doors it can open!
Written by Ashley Overholt, MA, CCC-SLP, Speech Language Pathologist, Delaware Speech and Hearing Center
Millar, Light, Schlosser. (2006). The Impact of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Intervention on Speech Production of Individuals with Developmental Disabilities: A Research Review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research. 48 (248-264).