Our Speech team explains how augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a great tool to have and how it carries over in the home environment from a clinical setting.


AAC Carryover in the Home Environment


Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a form of alternative communication for individuals who are; non-speaking, have limited intelligibility of speech, expressive language deficits, or have a diagnosis that affects their communication skills.


“Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) describes multiple ways to communicate that can supplement or compensate (either temporarily or permanently) for the impairment and disability patterns of individuals with severe expressive communication disorders.” (American Speech-Language Hearing Association – ASHA).


Use of an AAC device is common among individuals. Devices include high-tech softwares and apps that assist in communication (e.g., LAMP Words for Life, TouchChat, etc.), however, the AAC users Speech-Language Pathologist will assist in finding the best form/software of AAC to improve their skills in communication.


During speech therapy, the individual’s speech therapist will model using the device in the most naturalistic and beneficial way, using repetition, routines, etc., to use a variety of pragmatic functions (e.g., requesting, commenting, protesting, etc.). Although the clinician spends most of the session modeling and encouraging interaction with the device, 30 minutes each day for 2-3 days a week is not enough to build the language development the AAC user requires.


Access to the device builds consistency, familiarity, and language, which expands the individuals communication skills drastically, therefore, AAC use in the home environment is a necessity in order for the individuals to make gains towards language.


According to The AAC Community’s, ‘You Are A Model’, “An 18 month old child has been exposed to 4,380 waking hours of oral language. A typical AAC user, exposed to modeling 2 times a week for 30 minutes, would take 84 years to have the same level of exposure”.


AAC implementation in all environments is beneficial to not only language development, but the child’s quality of life in being able to communicate their wants, needs, feelings, etc. wherever they are. Device modeling and access in the home environment is important for the individual’s familiarity to the device and where specific icons are located and what they mean.



Tips for Implementing AAC in the Home Environment (Specifically High-Tech):


  1. Model *tip: if you don’t know where a button is, there is a ‘word finder’ option!
  • Requesting
    • g., if the child is demonstrating that they want an object/item/action, model on the device “i want ___”, “let’s go ___”, “i need ___”, etc., then provide the item/action.
  • Protesting
    • g., if the child is demonstrating that they want to end an action/game/routine, model on the device inhibitory/protesting words such as; “all done” or “stop”.
  • Commenting
    • g., if the child is playing with toys, puzzles, etc. or participating in an action (e.g., swinging, jumping, sliding, etc,), model their toys/actions by labeling or commenting “it’s a cow”, “i’m jumping”, “i see an apple”, “pig”, “walking”, etc.
    • g., if the child demonstrates a specific emotion (e.g., happy, sleepy, silly, mad, etc.) model their emotions, such as “i’m mad”, “i feel happy”, “i’m tired”, etc.

2. Allow access to the device:

  • Make sure the device is charged!
    • Charge the device when you charge your phone. If the device is not charged, it’s like losing your voice!
  • Provide the device to the individual when they are trying to tell you something, feel frustrated, playing, requesting, etc.
    • Having access to the device might limit frustrations and increase communication due to the child being able to effectively communicate.
  • Do not take their words
    • Taking an individual’s words away from them is similar to covering someone’s mouth. Everyone deserves a voice!

3. Be patient:

  • Allow the individual to have time to type their message.
    • Learning where the buttons are and developing a message takes time. Be patient while communicating with an AAC user.

4. Include it in routines:

  • When eating, model language (e.g., “i’m hungry”, “eat apples”, etc.)
  • When needing to go to the bathroom/washing hands/bathe (e.g., “i need bathroom”, “wash hands”, “time to shower”, etc.)
  • Going somewhere/transitions (e.g., “let’s go ___”, “time to ___, etc.)

5. Honor their communication:

  • If they say ‘help’, ‘all done’, ‘more’, request something (e.g., water, bathroom, etc.), make sure to honor their requests as if they were verbally saying it.
  • No matter what form of communication they use (e.g., gestures, AAC, sign, etc.), communication is communication!





You are A model. (2017, May 16). Aaccommunity.net. https://aaccommunity.net/ccc/you-are-a-model/


Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). (n.d.). American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. https://www.asha.org/njc/aac/

What is AAC? (n.d.). Aaccommunity.net. https://aaccommunity.net/introtoaac/

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