I have recently had a few children come into the clinic who wish to start or are using some form of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Augmentative communication refers to adding or enhancing the communication already used (e.g. using gestures, eye pointing and body language) and alternative communication is a substitute for speech (e.g. pointing to symbols, signing or spelling). AAC refers to all communication that is not speech. As speech pathologists, we use various forms of AAC in our sessions with clients of all communication levels and age ranges. Using AAC will not hinder the development of speech as children will use the quickest and most effective way to communicate. It may just ease the frustration of not being able to communicate effectively.

Types of AAC

There are various types of AAC used in communication. We have natural communication methods, such as gesture, mime, facial expressions and body language and we have other methods that can be taught, such as signing, use of symbols, communication boards, speech generating devices and many more. Generally, we use a variety of communication methods to get our message across. Below I have listed a few different types of AAC that we use in the clinic with our clients.

Key Word Sign

Key word sign (KWS) is the combination of manual signs and natural gestures, used to support communication. As speech pathologists working with children, you will often see us signing when we are targeting language development. Some signs that we use frequently are:

  • Finish- stick thumb up and shake from side to side
  • More- hand on chest and move it outwards
  • Want- hand on chest and move it down

PECSPicture Exchange Communication System

Picture exchange communication system (PECS) is a form a AAC that uses picture symbols for the communication. It can start out basic with a single picture exchanged for an item and can progress to more advanced sentences. It is commonly used as a communication aid for children with autism, but is often used for clients with a various communicative, cognitive and physical impairments.


Speech Generating Device

Some clients come into the clinic with very limited or unintelligible speech and may require use of a communication device. This is a board or a display on a machine that will speak a message when a button is pressed. You can have low tech and high tech devices. One that we use frequently with our clients is Proloquo2Go. This is an application for use on a tablet, such as an iPad and it can be customised to suit the client. I have used this in the clinic to support children with autism, down syndrome, cerebral palsy, a selective mute and many others!

I have recently also been introduced to another device called the Liberator Rugged 7, which I am looking forward to exploring its use and seeing how the client can learn to communicate with it. Again, this can be customised to suit the person using it with different vocabulary sets and page arrangements.


Using AAC in therapy sessions has been beneficial to many of my clients with assisting their speech and language development and I look forward to helping many more of my clients in the future. Please see your speech pathologist if you are interested in using any form of AAC with your child.