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What is AAC & Why Does it Matter?

Emily Duncan MS, CCC-SLP

A major driving point in increasing vocabulary, sentence structure, and overall communication is through the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).

To personalize the conglomeration of long terminology, I give the example of Stephen Hawking to explain alternative communication. In a situation where someone may have a progressive disease such as his, something as complex as an eye-tracking device providing voice-output to communicate for him was utilized. However, all the picture cards, sign-language, and gestures are also a portion of AAC, typically used as augmentative communication.

Thankfully, the research has been done for us to show that AAC does not hinder language acquisition by causing individuals to rely on a device, rather, it increases communication skills! It may serve as a long-term tool for the individual to continue engaging with others or as an aid to further prompt more words. It provides ideas to those who tend to repeat everything we say (echolalia) and gives independence to those who have difficulty expressing their wants and needs adequately.

If your child has ever used AAC of any kind, continue to encourage it and bring their “voice” everywhere! Remember that any place you can think of that you may need to use your voice is a place that they need to bring theirs, too!


Bean, A., Cargill, L. P., & Lyle, S. (2019). Framework for Selecting Vocabulary for Preliterate Children Who Use Augmentative and Alternative Communication. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 28(3), 1000–1009

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