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Chapter image Chapter 19: Strategy 17: Augmentative and alternative communication

YouTubeYouTube links

Using picture symbols for communication. (4.41 US)

Children who are nonverbal need a way to communicate, and one way to facilitate communication is through picture symbols, sometimes referred to as icons.


What is AAC? Augmentative and alternative communication. (7.47 US)

AAC is a way for individuals to communicate when they do not have the physical ability to use verbal speech or writing. AAC systems are designed to help people express their thoughts, needs and ideas. AAC is used by those with a wide range of speech and language impairments due to conditions such cerebral palsy, autism, spinal muscular atrophy and head injuries. AAC can range from a simple set of picture symbols on a communication board to a computer system that is programmed to speak with words or messages.


Autism teaching tools: Picture Exchange PECS. (2.38 US)

This clip shows how the Picture Exchange Communication System was implemented before moving on to verbal language.


A clear picture: The use and benefits of PECS. (47.20 US)

Lori Frost, co-developer of the Picture Exchange Communication System® (PECS®), introduces the Picture Exchange Communication Systemâ (PECS). This video includes a synopsis of the six training phases of PECS®, a discussions of the myths and facts associated with PECS® as well as an overview of the research related to PECS®.


websitesWeb links

Martin, L.N. (no date). Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): What is it and how can it help my child?

A PowerPoint presentation covering such topics as, ‘What is AAC?’, ‘Communication’, ‘Who benefits?’, ‘Common myths’, ‘Why use AAC?’, ‘Examples of AAC’ .


journalsJournal links

Light, J. and McNaughton, D. (2012). ‘Supporting the communication, language, and literacy development of children with complex communication needs: State of science and future research priorities’. Assistive Technology, 24(1), 34–44.

Children with complex communication needs (CCN) resulting from autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and other disabilities are severely restricted in their participation in educational, vocational, family and community environments. There is a substantial body of research that demonstrates convincingly that children with CCN derive substantial benefits from augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in their development of communication, language and literacy skills, with no risk to their speech development. Future research must address two significant challenges in order to maximize outcomes for children with CCN: (1) investigating how to improve the design of AAC apps/ technologies so as to better meet the breadth of communication needs for the diverse population of children with CCN; and (2) ensuring the effective translation of these evidence-based AAC interventions to the everyday lives of children with CCN so that the possible becomes the probable. This article considers each of these challenges in turn, summarizing the state of the science as well as directions for future research and development.