AAC Strategies for Children with Communication Difficulties

Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Communication is a fundamental aspect of human interaction, allowing us to express our needs, thoughts, and emotions. However, some children experience challenges in developing typical communication skills.

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) strategies offer valuable support to children with communication difficulties, enabling them to express themselves effectively and engage in meaningful interactions. In this article, we will explore AAC strategies, their benefits, and practical techniques that can empower children with communication difficulties.


What are AAC Strategies

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to a range of methods and tools used to enhance communication for individuals with limited speech or language abilities.

These strategies are designed to supplement or replace traditional spoken communication and can be used by individuals of all ages and abilities. For children with communication difficulties, AAC strategies play a crucial role in fostering language development, social interaction, and overall participation in various settings.

Read also: Empower Children’s Voices: Strategies for Speech and Impairment


Benefits of AAC Strategies for Children

Implementing AAC strategies offers numerous benefits for children with communication difficulties. Let’s explore some of the key advantages:

  1. Enhanced Communication: AAC strategies provide children with a means to express themselves and be understood by others. These strategies offer an alternative channel for communication, reducing frustration and promoting successful interactions.
  2. Improved Language Development: By using AAC systems, children can actively engage in language learning and development. AAC strategies support the acquisition of vocabulary, sentence structure, and grammar, fostering overall language skills.
  3. Increased Social Interaction: AAC encourages children to initiate and maintain social interactions. It helps them establish connections with peers, family members, and educators, leading to improved social skills and relationships.
  4. Greater Independence: AAC empowers children to become more independent communicators. It enables them to make choices, express their opinions, and participate in daily activities, promoting autonomy and self-advocacy.

Read also: Building Bridges for Lifelong Language Skills in Children


Types of AAC Strategies

AAC strategies encompass a variety of techniques and tools that cater to individual communication needs. Here are some commonly used AAC strategies for children:

1. Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)

PECS involves using a series of visual symbols, usually in the form of cards or pictures, to enable communication. Children are taught to exchange these symbols to express their desires, make requests, and convey messages.

2. Speech-Generating Devices (SGDs)

SGDs are electronic devices that produce speech output when activated. These devices range from simple button-based systems to complex tablets with customizable screens. SGDs allow children to select symbols or type messages to generate spoken words.

3. Sign Language

Sign language involves using gestures, hand movements, and facial expressions to convey meaning. Teaching children sign language can provide them with a visual and kinesthetic communication system that facilitates expressive and receptive communication.

4. Visual Supports and Communication Boards

Visual supports, such as schedules, choice boards, and communication boards, use pictures, symbols, or written words to aid communication. These supports help children understand and express concepts, make choices, and engage in conversations.


Implementing AAC Strategies in Practice

To effectively implement AAC strategies for children with communication difficulties, it is essential to consider their individual needs, preferences, and abilities. Here are some practical tips for using AAC strategies:

1. Collaborate with Professionals

Work closely with speech-language pathologists, educators, and other professionals experienced in AAC to develop a comprehensive communication plan tailored to the child’s needs. These experts can provide guidance, assessment, and training to ensure successful AAC implementation.

2. Provide AAC Training

Children, their families, and relevant support personnel should receive training on AAC strategies. Training sessions can cover system operation, vocabulary selection, and teaching strategies to promote successful communication using AAC.

3. Create a Communication Environment

Design an environment that promotes the use of AAC strategies. Ensure AAC tools are readily available and accessible to the child throughout their daily routines. Incorporate visual supports, such as labeling objects and using visual schedules, to reinforce communication and facilitate understanding.

4. Model AAC Use

Modeling AAC use involves consistently demonstrating how to use the AAC system during interactions. By modeling, children can observe and learn how to navigate the system, select appropriate vocabulary, and construct sentences. Encourage others, including peers and family members, to model AAC as well, creating a supportive communication environment.

5. Individualize Vocabulary Selection

Customize the AAC system’s vocabulary to meet the specific needs and interests of the child. Consider their daily routines, activities, and personal preferences when selecting words and symbols. Incorporate core vocabulary (words used frequently in various contexts) along with specific vocabulary related to the child’s interests and communication goals.

6. Promote Communication Opportunities

Create ample opportunities for the child to use AAC strategies throughout the day. Encourage them to initiate conversations, make choices, ask questions, and participate in various activities using their AAC system. Foster a communicative and inclusive environment that values and supports the child’s communication attempts.

7. Use Multimodal Communication

Encourage the use of multiple communication modes simultaneously. For example, combine speech with AAC strategies, allowing the child to use spoken words along with visual supports or gestures. This multimodal approach maximizes communication effectiveness and flexibility.

8. Assess and Adjust

Regularly assess the child’s progress with AAC strategies and make necessary adjustments. Evaluate their vocabulary needs, system navigation skills, and overall communication outcomes. Modify the AAC system and strategies based on the child’s evolving abilities and communication goals.

Read also: Strategies for Helping Children with Communication Difficulties


(Frequently Asked Questions)

Can AAC strategies hinder a child’s speech development?

No, AAC strategies actually support speech development by providing alternative means of communication while also encouraging language learning and interaction.

Is AAC only for children with severe communication difficulties?

No, AAC strategies can benefit children with a range of communication difficulties, from mild to severe, by providing additional support and enhancing their communication skills.

How long does it take for a child to become proficient in using AAC strategies?

The time required for proficiency varies depending on the child’s individual abilities, motivation, and support received. Consistent practice and guidance significantly contribute to the learning process.

Are AAC strategies only used at home or in therapy sessions?

AAC strategies should be incorporated into the child’s daily routines and various environments, including home, school, and community settings, to ensure consistent and meaningful communication.

Can AAC strategies be used alongside speech therapy?

Yes, AAC strategies can complement speech therapy interventions. AAC can provide immediate and functional means of communication while speech therapy targets specific speech and language goals.



Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) strategies offer invaluable support to children with communication difficulties. By implementing AAC strategies, children can enhance their communication skills, develop language abilities, engage in social interactions, and foster independence. Through techniques such as the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Speech-Generating Devices (SGDs), sign language, and visual supports, children can effectively express themselves and participate in various settings. It is crucial to collaborate with professionals, provide training, create a communication environment, model AAC use, individualize vocabulary selection, promote communication opportunities, use multimodal communication, and regularly assess and adjust AAC strategies for optimal results.

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