One approach frequently recommended by speech-language pathologists is the use of an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) device. Although they are becoming more commonly recommended, many parents, caregivers, and teachers have questions about how the use of an AAC device will impact their child. According to ASHA.org, “AAC means all of the ways that someone communicates besides talking. People of all ages can use AAC if they have trouble with speech or language skills. Augmentative means to add to someone’s speech. Alternative means to be used instead of speech. Some people use AAC throughout their life. Others may use AAC only for a short time, like when they have surgery and can’t talk.” Here are some of the most commonly asked questions and misconceptions surrounding AAC devices:
1. Will AAC devices stop a child from developing verbal language?
a. This is actually a myth! Current research has shown that AAC devices can increase the use of spoken language when an approach is used to target both together (Millar, Light, and Schlosser, 2006; Sedey, Rosin, & Miller, 1991).
2. Are AAC devices only for children who have no spoken words?
a. AAC devices of course are beneficial for children who have no spoken words, but they are also beneficial for children who have some spoken words but are delayed, as well as for children who have significant difficulty being understood by others due to speech sound errors or childhood apraxia of speech. Any child who is not able to fully communicate wants and needs may benefit from implementing AAC, particularly if they are demonstrating frustration when they are not understood or are not able to request what they need.
3. Will children only want to use an AAC for playing games or watching shows on instead of for communication?
a. AAC devices that are obtained through insurance are what is known as dedicated devices and can only be used for the AAC application. They do not have other apps and do not have the ability to access YouTube or Netflix.
4. Should AAC only be used after the age of three?
a. Research shows that there is no age that is “too young” for an AAC device and there are no prerequisites for using a device. Initially, focus should be on modeling on the device with no expectations of the child to imitate or use it, and it is never too early to begin modeling (Asha.org).
5. Are AAC devices are too expensive for families to buy? Should young children not be allowed to have AAC devices in case they break them?
a. Okay, this one is partially true! AAC devices can be very expensive and we don’t want children to break them. However, what people often don’t know is that insurance will frequently cover part or all of the cost of an AAC device if an evaluation with an SLP and an AAC consultant is completed. It is always a good idea to check with insurance prior to completing an evaluation to determine what will be covered. Additionally, devices often come with a protective gorilla glass cover that is very durable, and they are covered by warranty.
If you or a family member have questions about if an AAC device would be beneficial for your child, ask your speech therapist! If you don’t have a speech therapist, our therapists at Discover Speech Therapy have helped many clients through the process of getting an AAC device. We work closely with several AAC consultants in Knoxville to find the best fit for your child.
Millar DC, Light JC, Schlosser RW. The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: a research review. J Speech Lang Hear Res. 2006 Apr;49(2):248-64. doi: 10.1044/1092-4388(2006/021). PMID: 16671842. ASHA (n.d.). Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Asha.org. Retrieved August 9, 2023, from https://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/AAc/