The benefits of augmentative and alternative communication

Published on by Randy Nicholas

Augmentative and alternative communication refers to the broad range of methods that can be used to help those with communicative challenges. Techniques include the use of symbols, gestures and technology to help an individual to express ideas using mediums other than speech. This article describes the nature and benefits of alternative and augmentative communication.

Types of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)

Unaided AAC

Systems which do not require any kind of external tool are called unaided AAC systems. These methods consist primarily of teaching the subject how to use facial expressions, vocalisations, and gesture systems such as the American Sign Language.

Aided AAC

Aided AAC systems include the use of devices that are either low-tech or high-tech. Low-tech aids include notepads, chalk boards, communication boards, and other simple devices that don't require electricity or batteries to communicate ideas. High-tech options include speech-generation computers and specialised software.

Benefits of AAC


Augmentative and alternative communication methods are extremely diverse to allow for the individual needs of each patient. Usually, a comprehensive assessment of the individual's abilities, needs, and limitations is performed by a team of specialists, which may include speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, rehabilitation engineers, physiotherapists, social workers, and medical doctors, which generally results in a more positive prognosis.


AAC methods empower individuals afflicted with speech problems to carry out the communicative functions of their day-to-day lives. Many AAC devices and communication aids help individuals to adapt to situations that they encounter, where communication via American Sign Language or some other symbol or gesture-based language is not possible. This gives them a better chance at securing and maintaining employment and building relationships with family and friends.


Autism is characterised by the impairment of a child to acquire communication and social interaction skills. While many children with autism experience extreme difficulties with communication, they are typically found to have above-average visual-processing ability. Due to this, AAC has been incredibly effective in assisting those with autism to lead better quality lives.

Other conditions

AAC is used as part of the overall treatment for a number of neurological and physical impairments. A wide variety of AAC methods are used to help individuals afflicted with developmental dyspraxia, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, dementia, aphasia, and traumatic brain injury. In most cases, aided and unaided methods are combined to support language development and ongoing communication.


Published on Psychology

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