What is Augmentative Communication?
Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) are the communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language. It includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write. AAC systems are extremely diverse: unaided communication uses no equipment and includes signing and body language, while aided approaches use external tools and range from pictures and communication boards to speech generating devices such those offered by Tobii/Dynavox. The symbols used in AAC include gestures, photographs, pictures, line drawings, letters and words, which can be used alone or in combination. Devices with eye gaze can be used to select target symbols directly for those with neurological diseases that impede the use of the hands.
People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional. Special augmentative aids, such as picture and symbol communication boards and electronic devices, are available to help people express themselves. This may increase social interaction, school performance, and feelings of self-worth. AAC users should not stop using speech if they are able to do so. The AAC aids and devices are used to enhance their communication.