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UR Medicine


Augmentative & Alternative Communication

What is AAC? 

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an area of clinical practice that addresses the needs of individuals with significant and complex communication disorders characterized by impairments in speech-language production and/or comprehension, including spoken and written modes of communication.

AAC uses a variety of techniques and tools, including picture communication boards, line drawings, speech-generating devices (SGDs), tangible objects, manual signs, gestures, and finger spelling, to help the individual express thoughts, wants and needs, feelings, and ideas.

AAC is augmentative when used to supplement existing speech, and alternative when used in place of speech that is absent or not functional.

AAC may be temporary, as when used by patients postoperatively in intensive care, or permanent, as when used by an individual who will require the use of some form of AAC throughout his or her lifetime.

American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Augmentative and Alternative Communication (Practice Portal).

Who may benefit from AAC?

Individuals who may benefit from AAC include: those who are awake and alert but unable to speak due to ventilator dependence, individuals with severe motor speech or language impairments which limit communication, individuals with oral or facial trauma, those with progressive neuromuscular diseases, and those recovering from head and neck cancer.

Speech-Language Pathology Evaluation & Therapy

Speech-Language Pathologists (SLP) have specialty training in evaluating individuals with communication impairments.  Your SLP will determine whether you may be a good candidate for alternative or augmentative communication.  Your evaluation for AAC may include:

  • Comprehensive evaluation of speech, language, and cognition
  • Screening of vision, hearing, and motor skills to determine appropriate access methods
  • Device trials, which may be coordinated with an AAC vendor

Treatment may include:

  • Training for the device user and their communication partners
  • Collaboration with other health professionals

Additional Information

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC,) American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA):

International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ISAAC):

Patient- Provider Communication:

Device Vendors


NuMotion Speech Solutions


Tobii Dynavox