Most children learn to talk on their own. Although there are sometimes some bumps along the road, this process can feel like magic. After all, parents do not need to sit down with their child and teach every word he or she may ever say. However, sometimes learning to talk is really hard. This can happen for many reasons, including autism, cerebral palsy, and childhood apraxia of speech. This is where augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) comes in. A child at any cognitive level is capable of using AAC strategies – there are no prerequisite skills.
AAC can take many forms. For some children, it looks like using sign language, sometimes paired with vocal sounds. For others, it looks like pointing to or giving pictures. For early learners, behaviors, gestures, cooperative actions, and sounds can be considered communication, paving the way to more complex skills. There are also methods that use the great technology available today, like touch screen computers and text-to-speech abilities. Choosing an appropriate AAC system requires input from the child’s family, trained professionals, and anyone else the child interacts with on a regular basis. Whatever method is chosen, it is always customized to meet the unique communication needs of the individual child. Just as no two children are alike, no two AAC systems are alike. An AAC system will also evolve and grow with the child, as their needs change.
Using AAC does not mean giving up on natural speech. Instead, it often acts as a bridge, helping the child to meet their communication needs now and understand that they can influence the actions of others in their environment, facilitating the development of verbal communication (talking). AAC also can enable them to develop a language system that will help with reading and writing later on.
Not being able to speak is not the same as not having anything to say. AAC helps children express what they want and need in a way that others can understand, paving the way for communication success.
Our speech-language pathologists can help you decide if AAC is right for your child, recommend the most appropriate form of AAC, and help your child become a more successful communicator.