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Communication is a Human Right

by Greta Shires, Speech-Language Pathologist, MA, CCC-SLP

Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) and Gestalt Language Processing (GLP) treatments are popular in the autistic treatment world right now – and our Kalamazoo location, specifically, has been doing a tremendous job implementing these treatments with children who need help communicating effectively.

Here's what you should know about AAC:

What is AAC?

AAC stands for "Alternative and Augmentative Communication". The goal of introducing any form of AAC is to help an individual learn to effectively communicate whatever they want, whenever they want, with whomever they want. After all, communication is a human right.


No-tech, Low-tech, and High-tech Approaches

  • "no-tech", such as sign language, gestures, facial expressions, vocalizations, writing/drawing
  • "low-tech" systems such as the use of pictures, picture boards, or communication books which include "core" and "fringe' vocabulary
  • "high-tech" devices, often known as "speech generating devices (SGDs)". These devices are often a dedicated iPad, phone, or other high-tech device/tablet with a special program/app that includes a dynamic screen, digital voice output, and access to a "robust" vocabulary. These types of devices might be picture/icon-based or text-based. Sometimes people with complex bodies need alternative ways to access a communication system. For these individuals, supports such as switches and eye gaze technology are available to ensure everyone has a way to access their communication system.

"Some people may also be 'part-time' AAC users. These people often can use verbal speech effectively but not always reliably."

Young boy uses tablet to help communicate.

Who Might Benefit from AAC

  • High-tech AAC systems are often introduced to children or adults who are non-speaking or who have limited functional or intelligible verbal speech and do not have a reliable form of communication to effectively communicate their wants, needs, thoughts, and ideas with others.
  • People who benefit from using high-tech AAC include those who have physical disabilities such as cerebral palsy or cleft palate; syndromes or medical diagnoses such as autism, Angelman's Syndrome, or Rett Syndrome; people who have poor speech intelligibility due developmental reasons such as apraxia of speech; or acquired speech impairments such as dysarthria, aphasia, or apraxia secondary to a stroke, head and neck trauma secondary to cancer or surgery, etc.
  • Some children are "gestalt language processors" who use "delayed echolalia". This means they may sing songs or say quotes they have heard before, but their speech may not always be clear, or their message understood by others.  Even though these children are verbal, they may also benefit from using AAC.
  • Some people may also be "part-time" AAC users. These people often can use verbal speech effectively but not always reliably. They may "lose" their ability to verbally express themselves at certain times depending on the setting/environment, emotional or sensory needs/overwhelm, anxiety, etc. This may include children or adults who are autistic, who experience selective mutism, those who may benefit from having a "back-up system" due to poor speech intelligibility, or for a variety of other reasons.


If you have any questions about AAC and how it might benefit your child, please contact us to schedule an evaluation.