We all use multiple modes of communication when we are “talking” to someone. Gesture, facial expression, pictures, photos and technology all add meaning to what we say. If a student has not yet developed enough speech to allow them to say whatever they want/need/think, Speech Pathologists can help consider other modes of communication available in addition to speech. This is referred to as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and includes sign, picture symbols (e.g. PECS, PODD, chat displays, core vocabulary boards), speech output devices (e.g. Proloquo2Go, LAMP, PODD), text and interaction strategies used by partners to help the child understand and be understood.
Scientific research has shown us the use of AAC with speech does not hinder a person’s speech development. In fact, AAC speeds up speech development for people who have the potential for speech, probably due to the extra language learning and communication success they are experiencing.
AAC has benefits for people who have difficulty understanding speech, using speech, relating to people or all of the above. For AAC to offer most benefit it must be highly individualised with clear goals and purpose. Communication is a two way process and a shared responsibility. For best outcomes, AAC should be shared and used by as many partners as possible.
Learning to express words in any mode develops vocabulary, knowledge of how words combine into phrases, ability to talk about things not in the here and now, ability to talk about past and future, ability to think in words, ask questions, be less reliant on behaviours of concern, and participate in literacy learning.