Augmentative and Alternative Communication


What is AAC?



Committee Members

What is AAC?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) describes a range of strategies and tools to help people who struggle with speech. These may be letter or picture boards or computer-based systems. AAC helps someone to communicate as effectively as possible, in as many situations as possible.

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The Committee has contributed to the IALP book publication Addressing Communication Disorders
 in Unserved and Underserved Populations, authored by members of the Association, celebrating 100 years of the IALP by presenting ideas to assist all those who work with children and adults who have difficulty in communicating or swallowing in order to improve services for unserved and underserved communities.

It offers strategies to address disorders and conditions that affect many areas of everyday life and which are exacerbated by lack of adequate health, education and social services.


The book chapter is free for download here:

Augmentative and Alternative Communication in Underserved or Unserved Populations


Frequently Asked Questions

What is aphasia?

How is aphasia assessed?

A speech and language therapist (or speech and language pathologist) assesses the type and severity of the communication disability for eachindividual with aphasia. The assessment will determine the person’s communication needs and goals. The speech and languagetherapist/pathologist will measure different aspects of language use and determine what challenges the language and communication problemswill have on typical daily activities.If theperson with aphasia has a history of bilingualism or multilingualism, efforts should be made to assess all the languages known by the personby involving an interpreter or family members and friends. Guidelines on working with interpreters can be found inthe Suggested Readingssection below.An aphasia assessment will cover how well the person can;

  • ● speak (for example, can they name common objects, such as pen or flower?)
  • ● understand (for example, can they follow instructions or answer general knowledge questions?)
  • ● read (for example, can they read from a newspaper?)
  • ● write (for example, can they write their name and address or a text message?)
  • ● use numbers (for example, can they perform a simple addition calculation?)
  • ● use other forms of communication, such as gesture and body language to assist communication when language fails.

  • Assessment will explore the impact of a person’s aphasia on their conversation and other communication activities (for example texting, using acomputer, completing forms) and their participation in social and vocational life. Sometimes the assessment will involve family members todetermine which communication supports and strategies work best.

    After assessment, what next?

    Speech and language therapy helps the recovery of people with ap hasia. Depending on the information gathered during these assessments, the therapist will understand what language and communication difficulties the person is having and what their communication need s are. This information helps to plan therapy. Usually, a therapy plan that matches the specific communication needs of the person with aphasia is developed. Therapy sessions may be individual or in groups. The treatment program may also involve training and advice for communication partners to enable effectiv e communication. Screening and referral for problems with mood, and support for general wellbeing may also be provided. There are many approaches to aphasia therapy. In general, no one approach is better than the other. Computer softwa re is frequently used to support language and communication rehabilitation practice. Community level aphasia support and long - term rehabilitation programs exist in many countries, often managed by voluntary and not for profit organisations.

    What does it mean to be diagnosed with aphasia?

    Aphasia affects people differently. Some common issues for individuals include:

  • ● having problems “finding” the word they want to say(though they “know what they want to say)
  • ● only being able to use a few words or short incomplete sentences
  • ● producing long passages of speech which are difficult to follow or understand
  • ● having difficulty understanding other people speaking, especially if there are many people in a conversation and if the information iscomplex or the speech is very fast
  • ● readingor writing may be very challenging. For some individuals they may only be able to write their name or read a street sign.

  • When someone is diagnosed with aphasia, all aspects of an individual’s life involving communication can be affected with social and emotionalconsequences. They may have problems with their memory, their ability to concentrate, fatigue, visual or mobility problems.

    What are the chances of recovery?

    For some people with very mild aphasia the symptoms may completely resolve. For others with moderate or severe aphasia the symptoms may persist for months, years or be lifelong. Improvements in communication can occur even several years after the brain injury. Research is ongoing to identify the key elements, for example, age or initial aphasia severity, that can be used to predict who will make a significant versus a poor recovery from aphasia.

    Do bilinguals and multilinguals that develop aphasia recover the first language they learned or their strongest language better than their second or weaker language?

    No. When persons who were bilingual or multilingual speakers experience a phasia after a brain injury, they generally recover their languages in parallel. Their aphasia symptoms are similar in both languages and may recover these languages to the same extent as before the brain injury. However, many other recovery patterns may a lso occur; unequal recovery of the languages known by the person before the brain injury, different aphasic symptoms in different languages, or unusual use of the languages, such as involuntary language “mixing”.

    What impact does aphasia have on the Individual with aphasia and family member?

    Communication is a vital human activity. Aphasia has a substantial impact on the individual and their family. People may feel socially disconnected and emotionally uncomfortable about their communication difficulties. People with aphasia will struggle to c ommunicate with family, healthcare professionals and the community. Many people with aphasia become isolated from their friends, experiencing extreme loneliness , anxiety or depression. Others may experience negative attitudes, or unskilled communication pa rtners. Family members are often required to take on new roles in place of the person with aphasia. In addition, family members may also be required to act as a kind of translator fo r the individual with aphasia. These additional responsibilities, along wi th changed relationships and roles, can create considerable carer burden. Health practitioners need to be aware of and seek to manage mental health issues and support needs in people with aphasia and their significant ot hers.

    How can we help someone with aphasia function in their environment?

    The type or complexity of the language being used, and the level of social or communication support in the environment can ma ke a difference in how much someone with aphasia can take part in communication activities and feel socially connected. To support participation and a sense of connection, we can alter the communication environment to facilitate everyday interactions. When speaking with people with ap hasia, try to support their communication. The speech therapis t may be able to advise you on how best to do this.

    What you can do is

  • ● speakinshort,simplesentences
  • ● repeatif you need to facilitate better understanding
  • ● speakat your usualvolume
  • ● givelots oftimefor aresponse
  • ● makeeye contact
  • ● speakdirectlyto theperson
  • ● use agestureorwritedownimportantwords to help understanding
  • ● checkthat the person with aphasia hasunderstood.
  • ● encourage the person with aphasia to usegesture,writingordrawingiftalkingis difficult
  • Does culture have an impact on aphasia services?

    Yes. Attitudes to the language disability associated with aphasia and perception and engagement in clinical services may be s haped by the cultural background of the person with aphasia and their relatives an d friends. For example, in some cultures the aphasia experienced by a person may be considered a “punishment from God” or “an evil spiri t” thus minimizing client or family motivation to seek therapy. Similarly, rather than seeking professional services, re latives may take a person with aphasia to a local healer or use home remedies to help recovery. It is important to bear in mind, however, that culturally - shaped behaviours and attitudes are not equally shown among all members of an ethnic group. While some people may be very conservative in their cultural attitudes and beliefs, others may have different perceptions shaped by other cultural influences.


    Space to provide documents / pictures


    The AAC Committee is currently undertaking 3 key activities:

    Developing the AAC conference preparations work into an article for submission, led by Sally Clendon (NZ).

    Sub-group exploring the best and most fruitful way to signpost AAC on this website, led by Nika Jelenc (SLO).

    Supporting WHO – AT by reviewing their suggested module content for AAC + AAC product list, momentarily led by Janice Murray (UK).




    Committee Members and Consultants

    Term of office 2022-2025

    Janice Murray (UK)


    Martine Smith (Ireland)

    Deputy Chair

    Shakila Dada (South Africa)


    Nika Zevnik (Slovenia)


    Kirsi Neuvonen (Finland)


    MaryAnn Romski (USA)


    Hans van Balkom (Netherlands)


    Ayesha Butt (United Kingdom)


    May Agius (Malta)


    Sally Clendon (New Zealand)


    Stephanie Weir (Australia)


    Kate Anderson (Australia)


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