• Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

    Frequently Asked Questions

    What is AAC?
    When a person’s verbal speech doesn’t meet their everyday communication needs, they may add AAC to support their speech (augmentative) or use AAC instead of speech (alternative) to express themselves. 

    Who uses AAC?
    AAC is used by people with complex communication needs. This may be because of a developmental condition that’s present from birth/early childhood (e.g., autism or cerebral palsy) or a condition acquired later in life (e.g., traumatic brain injury or stroke). People of all ages and physical ability use AAC.

    Is AAC the same for everyone?
    AAC is based on a person’s unique communication needs. This is informed by their physical ability, communication partners, personal interests, and more. Even people experiencing similar challenges may use AAC in completely different ways - it all depends on what works best for their needs and communication style. 

    What kinds of AAC are there?
    AAC comes in many forms, including...

    • High-tech: runs on electricity, may have a speech generating feature (voice output)
    • Low/light-tech: non-electronic tools such as communication boards, writing tools
    • "No-tech": requires no external tools; gestures, facial expressions, manual signs or American Sign Language (ASL)

    Does using AAC mean giving up on verbal speech?
    The introduction of AAC does not mean the end of practicing other modes of communication. All are legitimate forms of communication, and a student's educational team works together to find the combination that works best for their unique communication needs. 

    The Total Communication approach is "a holistic approach to communication that promotes the use of all modes of communication, including sign language, spoken language, gestures, facial expressions, and environmental cues such as pictures and sounds." (ASHA)

    External Resources for AAC
    All external links on this page are being provided for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement from the Mercer Island School District of any of the products, services, or opinions of the corporation, organization, or individual.

    American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) AAC page:

    Communication Bill of Rights (ASHA):

    Augmentative communication and early intervention: Myths and realities.
    By Maryann Romski & Rose Sevcik (2005)

    PrAACtical AAC (blog for professionals and families):

    Parent’s and Teacher’s Guide to Getting Started with AAC (blog post):