Communication systems and strategies

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies assist people with complex communication needs to participate more fully in their social roles including interpersonal interaction, learning, education, community activities, employment, volunteerism, care management, etc.

An individual makes use of a collection of AAC strategies to meet his or her individual requirements in a full range of communicative situations. This collection is referred to as the person’s AAC SYSTEM. Individuals typically draw from a range of tools and strategies to fit the particular communicative opportunity. These may include: speech; vocalizations; speech-generating devices; computers; tablets; cell phones; pen and paper; communication books, wallets or boards; sign language; gestures; facial expressions; and eye gaze, among others.

For example, an individual may use a sophisticated speech-generating system in a classroom or work place to participate in discussion, and then use a communication book to chat with friends. She may use her speech and/or word approximations with familiar communication partners in combination with gestures and eye-pointing and facial expressions. In a noisy restaurant or bar, she may use gestures, and speech, along with typing on a smaller, more portable AAC device. In the swimming pool, her system may be printed on waterproof paper or laminated. During a job interview, she may have created answers to common questions and stored them in her communication device, to facilitate her response speed, but also have access to the rest of her vocabulary so she can generate exactly what she wants to say, as needed. At home on her computer, chatting with friends or emailing, she may use a variety of different access methods that function as the keyboard and mouse on her computer.