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What is Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC)?
Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to forms of communication other than speech. It can include a variety of different communication methods that are used in place of or to enhance speech, such as such as gestures, pointing to symbols, eye pointing and vocalisations, as well as AAC systems and assistive technologies.
How can I benefit from AAC?
AAC can support autistic individuals in the development of communication skills when their speech is slow to develop, is limited, or is difficult to understand.
An Augmentative Alternative Communication assessment can determine whether an individual on the spectrum would benefit from using different communication methods or assistive technology, such as:
- Key Word Sign
- Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
- Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD)
- Aided Language Stimulation (ALS), or
- Voice-output communication aids (VOCA).
Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) can include a variety of different communication methods that are used in place of or to enhance speech.
AAC assessments and therapy
Autism SA’s therapists are trained to provide communication assessments in relation to an early years child’s needs for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. This service includes trials of AAC systems and will make recommendations and requests for assistive technology, where required.
AAC Therapy can then be provided once a child has acquired their AAC system, in order to develop their skills in using AAC to communicate regularly.
School years children can be assessed by Autism SA therapists to determine their need for Augmentative and Alternative Communication therapy. As part of this process, AAC systems will be trialed, followed by recommendations and requests for assistive technology, if required.
Once a child has an AAC system, they may receive AAC therapy so that they can develop their skills to use it effectively as a means of communication.
School Leavers / Adults
School leavers or adults who do not have an AAC system can be assessed, and different systems trialled to find a suitable alternative communication method. Assistive technology requests can then be completed, as required.
AAC Therapy services for school leavers and adults are designed to meet an individual’s goals and build capacity for independent communication. Regular support is provided through mentoring and coaching, including upskilling of communication partners.
Parents/Carers & Professionals
Autism SA provides support for communication partners (parents and caregivers) of individuals with autism of all ages who communicate using their own Augmentative and Alternative Communication system.
The main objective of the program is to build communication partners’ capacity and confidence in setting goals for the individual they support, and for implementing strategies to achieve these goals.
How can I access the service?
For more information about supports and services at Autism SA, please contact My Pathways on 1300 288 476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Autism SA is accredited and registered as a provider through the National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA). This means that you can pay for services at Autism SA with your NDIS funding, or you may pay yourself, through fee for service.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is Key Word Sign?
Key Word Sign uses a combination of manual signs and natural gestures in order to support communication and language development. In key word signing, a core vocabulary of words is used to communicate concepts and ideas, with each being matched to an Auslan hand sign. Key Word Sign can be used in conjunction with other non-speech communication methods and AAC systems.
What is a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)?
PECS is used to teach functional communication and is based around six phases of communication between an individual on the spectrum and their communication partner. It uses the physical exchange of pictures as a means of communicating requests or comments, and can provide a non-verbal means of communicating as well as help an individual develop a capability to initiate communication with other people.
What is a Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD)?
A Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) is generally a book or a device containing symbols and words that is used to support communication between individuals who require assistance to understand or express language and their communication partners. A PODD can be personalised to suit the needs of individuals with autism of any age.
What is Aided Language Stimulation (ALS)?
Aided Language Stimulation (ALS) is a form of assistive technology designed to model the language that is used in everyday situations. The communication partner talks to the individual they are supporting while at the same time selecting or pointing to keywords on their AAC system. This process helps develop an understanding of language and symbols, as well as providing opportunities to communicate in real life situations.
What are voice-output communication aids (VOCA)?
Voice output communication aids (sometimes known as speech generating devices, or SGDs) are used to produce speech for an individual on the spectrum who has limited speech or is difficult to understand. Although there are different types of device, they generally work by producing a digitised voice for the user, and so assist in both language comprehension and expression.
How can I get a referral for an AAC assessment?
The following people and professionals are able to make a direct referral to have an AAC assessment with one of Autism SA’s therapists:
- General Practitioners
- Child Health Nurses
- Other health professionals
- Childcare workers, kindergarten and school teachers, and
- Community health organisations.
How can I arrange an AAC assessment?
Contact My Pathways on 1300 288 476 to enquire about the supports and services that we have available, or the groups and programs that are currently running.