Therapy Spotlight: Speech- All About AAC

What is AAC? 
AAC stands for augmentative and alternative communication. Any item that supplements or substitutes for verbal speech is considered AAC. Some examples include gestures, signs, picture communication boards, and speech-generating devices. 

Who can use AAC?
Anyone who struggles with language and speech is a candidate to try AAC. Particularly children who may be difficult to understand, are learning to talk slower, or are not talking yet. There are no prerequisites for AAC. 

Is AAC developmentally appropriate for young children?
Yes. Children begin learning language and communication at birth. They learn language by experiencing it, and AAC provides access to that experience. AAC enhances functional communication, concept development, social interaction, foundations for literacy, categorization, and sequencing.

What does the research say about AAC? 
Research shows that AAC positively impacts language, cognition, literacy, and participation in social, educational, and play environments. The majority of AAC users increase speech after AAC is introduced. AAC supports language that can be universally understood, which is particularly helpful when in the community.  

How is AAC used at The Rise School of Denver?
Rise teachers and therapists prioritize modeling and teaching a variety of AAC strategies throughout all classroom routines. These tools aim to aid understanding, provide a multi-sensory experience, and reduce communicative frustration by increasing efficiency. Utilizing AAC strategies within the classroom promotes successful and positive communicators. At Rise we understand that we must model using an AAC strategy first before expecting a student to do so. Below are some of the AAC strategies we frequently use at Rise.

American Sign Language (no-tech): We pair simple signs with speech and focus on high-frequency preschool vocabulary, such as “more,” “me,” “go,” and “all done.” 

Communication Pictures (low-tech): Teachers post visual schedules, classroom rules, student photos, and pictures to correspond with classroom objects. These images aid language understanding but also are accessible to students to label and request toys, activities, and friends. Core vocabulary symbols, such as “eat” or “go,” may be posted on tables or near doors for easy and quick modeling and communication.

iPad communication apps (high-tech): Speech-generating devices provide access to a larger vocabulary bank and allow for the expression of multi-word phrases. Devices provide auditory feedback and can be easily customized to a student's unique needs regarding real or symbolic images, button size and location, and touch access. The communication iPad at Rise currently houses Sounding Board, TouchChat, and Snap+Core communication apps. 

If you would like more information about AAC or have questions about how to add AAC to your child’s communication toolbox, feel free to contact me. 

 Julie Demes, MS, CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

 Resources and References:





  • Drager, K., Light, J., Curran-Speltz, J., Fallon, K., & Jeffries, L. (2003). The performance of typically developing 2 ½-year-olds on dynamic display AAC technologies with different system layouts and language organizations. Journal of Speech, Language and Hearing Research, 46, 298-312.

  • Light, J. & Drager, K. (2007). AAC technologies for young children with complex communication needs: State of the science and future research directions. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 23, 204-216.

  • Romski, M.A. & Sevcik, R.A. (2005). Augmentative communication and early intervention: Myths and realities. Infants and Young Children, 18, 174-185.



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