What Is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) includes all the ways we share our ideas and feelings without talking (ASHA, 2021). We all use forms of AAC in our everyday lives including a change in your facial expression, waving hello to someone or reading road signs to navigate our route to work.  

People who have communication difficulties can benefit from AAC to assist them to better communicate with people in their lives.   

AAC systems come in many forms and aim to support individuals to communicate with others more effectively, making it easier for them to participate in everyday activities.    

Who is AAC for?  

Anyone who has difficulty in understanding or using verbal communication.  

An individual may have difficulty speaking for many reasons such as a developmental disability or an acquired condition affecting their speech.  

Finding the right AAC supports or systems 

Finding the right AAC supports or systems for each person takes a team approach led by the Speech Pathologist. This team may include the family, the client, other therapists, teachers and any other professionals with knowledge of the individual‘s communications skills, interests and needs.   

The Speech Pathologist will work with the individual, family and wider team to gather knowledge around the individual’s goals and what they want to achieve.  

It is important to remember that while other professionals can provide suggestions and advice, the decision ultimately rests with the individual and their supports.  

There are a large range of AAC options available. The speech pathologist will complete an assessment to determine the individual skills, goals and needs. More than one option can be trialled to determine the right fit for the individual. Consult your Speech Pathologist if you want to learn more!  

AAC in different environments   

Communication happens constantly throughout the day. Each time we interact with somebody we are communicating. It is important for the AAC system to be used consistently across all of these environments and when interacting with different people.  

Consistency is key to ensuring the AAC system is a success for the individual. This means that everyone needs to be on the same page and using the same AAC methods or tools across their different environments including at home with their parents and siblings and at school with their teachers and classmates.  

Infants are exposed to spoken language for about a year before they begin to talk. AAC users need lots of language modelling and exposure to an AAC system with the people in their lives to help them learn to communicate with their new system. As with all skills, the more opportunities for the individual to use the system, the faster and more effectively they will learn. 

Some examples of AAC include 

  • Non-verbal communication (facial expression, gesture and body language) 
  • Visual Support (schedules, choice boards) 
  • Paper based communication boards or books (PECS and PODD books
  • Keyword Sign (previously known as Makaton)
  • Electronic Communication Devices (including apps on phones, tablets and other devices) 

There is an extensive range of mainstream products available on the market. However, it is important to remember that different technology suits different needs, so speak to your Speech Pathologist about what is right for you. 

It is important to choose supports that will grow with the individual and continue to be relevant as the person moves through different life stages. However, technologies can change and it is not uncommon for individuals to change from one device to another.  


AAC systems and supports can be funded under the NDIS. Find out more.

AAC opens the gateway to connection, communication and participation in life. If you are interested in learning more, speak to your Speech Pathologist today. 

Get in touch today to start your AAC journey! 

Find out more about our individual therapy services here or contact our therapy team on therapyintake@gateways.com.au or 03 5221 2984 for more information.

Additional information 

Read about how AAC has helped Gateways Support Services participant, William, here.

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