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.

Guiding Principles

  • Communication has no prerequisites.

  • AAC is best incorporated into an individual’s already existing multi-modal communication system.

  • Students need opportunities to communicate for more than just requesting their wants and needs.

  • Teaming is essential. The success of any communication system is highly dependent upon the skills of communication partners.

  • Technology decisions are guided by needs and not candidacy.

Core Vocabulary

​Core vocabulary refers to the small number of words that make up > 70-90% of what we say on a daily basis. These words are relevant across contexts and can have many meanings. Core vocabulary allows communicators to express a wide variety of concepts with a very small number of words.

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Aided Language

Aided language input is a research-based strategy in which communication partners highlight symbols on the AAC system as they interact verbally with the person using AAC.