Augmentative/alternative communication (AAC) is a set of procedures and processes by which an individual’s communication skills can be maximized for functional communication. It involves supplementing or replacing natural speech or writing. It is multimodal (it can use existing vocalizations, gestures, signs, or aided communication- picture cards, computers, etc.). AAC is also integrated, using symbols, aids, techniques, and strategies.

Augmentative- using an AAC device in combination with existing speech
Alternative- an AAC completely replaces the traditional communication mode.

Assessment Areas: Three phases of AAC Assessment

  1. Initial assessment for Today: An initial assessment to help design some basic intervention to meet the client’s communication needs at the very least.
  2. Detailed Assessment for Tomorrow: To develop a system for a specific environment (e.g., science class, recess, etc.).
  3. Follow-up Assessment: Maintaining whatever the client’s communication intervention is but also changing it to meet their needs.

Interview Questions:

  • What are the client’s strengths?
  • Is the client familiar with using technology?
  • Does the client prefer letters and words or a symbol system?
  • What environments does the client find his/herself in/ what task do you typically do daily?
  • What are some potential access or opportunity barriers of the client that may affect the use of an AAC?

Formal Tests: There are no formal assessments specific for AAC.

Alternative Assessment Measures:

  • Look at the client’s participation patterns and his/her communication needs (to see if they are participating and communicating like his/her peers).
  • Gather typical words and phrases from family members.
  • Observe the client in a natural setting (home, work, school).

Initial Treatment Goals:

  • The client will become familiar with and be able to physically navigate the AAC device.
  • The client will utilize communication board to effectively comprehend and communicate basic medical and social needs during routine daily activities in functional living environment.


  • http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/learning-disabilities/strategies-for-learning-disabilities/communication-strategies/aac/
    • This is a website that educates parents on Augmentative/alternative communication. It focuses on the benefits of AAC devices, when to use AAC, and where to go to see if the child is eligible for an AAC device. It also lays out basic ways for the parents to use the AAC devices with their children and other methods of and strategies that are important when communicating with someone who has a language impairment.
  • http://learningdisabilities.about.com/od/ac/g/augmentative.htm
    • This website defines Augmentative communication. It also describes the difference between low technology AAC devices and higher technology AAC devices. The page also includes a list of situations, or cases where someone may have a language disorder, in which someone may use an AAC device.
  • http://www.fctd.info/factsheet/at101
    • The website begins with a basic description and overview of AAC technology. It addresses the challenges that people may face when using and AAC device. Also included on the web page is a description of how each person is different and how it is important to select a device that will meet the needs of the child.


  • http://www.aacsafeguarding.ca/introduction-augmentative-alternative-communication/#more-22
    • This website describes in detail augmentative and alternative communication. Types of AAC are addressed on the page, as well as the different groups of people who may benefit from utilizing an AAC device. It also provides information on the outcome of AAC usage and training, which are ultimately the improvement in the users quality of life.
  • http://www.asha.org/public/speech/disorders/AAC/
    • The page is from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. The source gives detailed information about AAC. Information found on the page includes what AAC is, the different types of AAC, and what the SLP’s role is with regards to the training and use of AAC.
  • https://aaclanguagelab.com/
    • This webpage includes tools and activities for speech-therapy that includes information on learning, using, and teaching AAC. It provides examples of clinical lesson plans, as well as ideas for different activities. The page also provides ways for SLPs to educate the persons using AAC and their caregivers.


Haynes, W. O., & Pindzola, R. H. (2012). Diagnostics and evaluation in speech pathology (8th ed., pp 215-237). Pearson.

(1997–2014) American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)

SPAUD 501: Diagnostics notes; Heather Koole (Calvin College)

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