Autism Awareness Month: Alternative and Augmentative Communication

Did you know that April is Autism Awareness month? This annual  campaign is designed to raise public awareness of this neurological disorder and spread information about identification, treatment, and research. Since speech-language pathologists play a significant role in autism therapy, Speech Associates of NY is dedicating our blog posts to issues in Autism for the month of April. Today, we’ll talk a little bit about Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC).

Difficulties with language and communication are one of the most common issues in autism. The type of communication deficit can range significantly in severity, from difficulty with social communication to individuals who are completely non-verbal. For those who have severe difficulty communicating via spoken language, strategies may be used to as an alternative to speech or as a way to augment current levels of communication. Today we’ll talk about two approaches sometimes used with individuals on the autistic spectrum.

1. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS): PECS is often used when a child is unable to communicate using spoken language or has severe difficulty communicating his wants and needs. Although the way in which a child should be introduced to the usage of PECS has some nuance, the general idea is basic: the individual with communicative difficulties is given a board or book containing pictures representing different items or ideas. These pictures are removable, often attached to the board or book with Velcro. With time, the individual learns to present a picture to another person, exchanging it for that object or the desired action.

2. Communication Boards and Speech-Generating Devices: In some instances a child may be able to point to pictures or symbols to communicate their wants and needs. In this case, a communication board may be used. This can be a relatively simple concept, a low-tech board with pictures representing the individual’s most common needs which they can point to and show to others. More high-tech variations are also available, including computers which generate speech as the individual touches the appropriate symbols. The complexity of the language and symbols can vary greatly depending on the communication abilities of the individual.

Do you know someone who uses AAC? What have been some of the challenges you or your loved one have faced? Share your experience below in the comment section!

For information on our New York based Speech-Language Pathology services, please call Speech Associates of New York today at (212) 308-7725 or visit our website at and find out how our team of professionally trained and certified speech-language pathologists can help!

© 2014, Speech Associates of New York – All Rights Reserved

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