My previous blog post discussed the basics of Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC); if you missed it, please check it out here! Now, I will discuss populations of children who can benefit from using AAC. Much of this information is also applicable to adults using AAC, but I will continue to focus primarily upon children (0-18 years of age).
For some of my clients, AAC will be the primary mode of communication used throughout their lives. Certain medical diagnoses (for example, severe Cerebral Palsy) are associated with profound difficulty producing intelligible speech and another mode of communication will be more effective and efficient. For other clients, AAC use is relatively short-lived and is eventually replaced by verbal communication. For example, many of my clients between 1 and 3 years of age will use sign language, picture symbols or AAC iPad apps to communicate basic wants and needs like “eat”, “more” and “mom”. As they gain the ability to express themselves verbally, they replace these modes of communication with spoken words. For others, like Timmy in my previous post, AAC continues to be used for many years but is combined with other modes of communication. An immense variety of AAC options exists, and I will be discussing many of these options in future posts. But first, we need to ask and answer the question: Who are these children who are using AAC?
In my practice, children using AAC fall into two main categories; the first includes children who are nonverbal. For a variety of reasons, they are not able to use speech to communicate. Some have disorders that affect the tone, strength or coordination of the muscles used to produce speech. Others are physically capable of speaking, but have neurological diagnoses that result in a lack of verbal communication. As you may imagine, there are many combinations of factors that can lead to a child being considered “nonverbal”. Here are some examples of nonverbal children being helped by AAC (all identifying information, including pictures, has been changed):