Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Giving Voice to Those Without

by Nicole Lewis MS., CCC-SLP



ipad learningAugmentative and Alternative Communication, better known as AAC to many therapists and service providers, encompasses all forms of communication excluding verbal speech. AAC includes, but is not limited to, facial expressions, writing, gestures, use of pictures or symbols, speech generated software and computer software to list a few.


As May is National Speech and Hearing Month, this is a good time to highlight the types of human communication that make up AAC.

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AAC is broken into two primary categories:

  1. Aided communication: A person relies on an outside device/object for communication, as in
    the use of an iPad or communication cards.
  2. Unaided Communication: A person uses his/her own body to convey the message, as in the
    use of facial expressions or sign language. These forms have been used, and still are used,
    frequently for people in many different applications. Through the years many unaided
    communication systems have been created and built upon to create communication platforms
    such as the use of sign language.


Aided communication is further broken down into sub-categories including:

  • Low tech: no electricity, such as cards with words on them
  • Light tech: powered by electricity, typically batteries; produces output such as a recorded voice or noise that is not changeable; e.g a simple button that when pushed says “Hi”
  • High tech: powered by electricity, batteries or AC/DC; produces a variable, customized message; e.g. iPad with multiple buttons that have different messages


Historically, AAC has been used for people in all stages of life to overcome a deficit in verbal communication. This has ranged from children with developmental delays to adults who have suffered types of trauma to the brain.


As a speech therapist, I believe that communication is one of the most meaningful and rewarding aspects of a person’s life. AAC is an amazing and valuable resource that can create or give back a person’s individual voice and ability to interact with others in their world.


Here are some great AAC resources: