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The AAC myths and realities identified by Romski & Sevcik (2005)

Updated: Jun 6, 2023


Romski & Sevcik published a fundamental article about AAC myths and realities in 2005. They reported that these myths often prevent AAC introduction to children in early intervention. By dispelling these myths, it allows clinicians to learn how they can provide AAC supports for children who need it!


Remember, there is no "magic button" when it comes to AAC! Having a foundational understanding of these myths can help. Although this article is over 15 years old, many of these myths are still being "busted" today. Learn more about some of those myths below:


Myth 1: AAC is a “last resort” in speech-language intervention

  • According to Romski & Sevcik, when AAC was first emerging as an intervention strategy for children several decades ago, many considered it more as a "last resort".

  • Clinical decision making related to AAC interventions should not be based on an individual's inability to meet certain milestones or develop certain skills. If a child has unmet communication needs, AAC supports can meet those needs. This can be low-tech or high-tech!

  • Romski and Sevcik said it best, AAC should be introduced BEFORE communication failure occurs to prevent frustrations and behaviors related to unmet communication needs. This allows a child to learn to utilize effective alternate communication modes for a variety of communication functions (e.g., protest, request, comment) instead of resorting to behavioral means of communication.

Myth 2: AAC hinders or stops further speech development

  • This is a myth that for some reason continues to persist. It is the idea that AAC intervention will somehow prevent or delay speech development for a child.

  • We know that research does NOT support this myth. The research literature has found that AAC intervention supports speech development GAINS.

  • There is a number of research articles that reported improvement in speech skills after AAC intervention. In a meta-analysis by Millar, Light, and Schlosser (2006) examining 27 cases they found that none of the cases demonstrated decreases in speech production as a result of AAC intervention, 11% showed no change, while the majority, 89%, demonstrated gains in speech as a result of AAC intervention.

Myth 3: Speech-generating AAC devices are only for children with intact cognition

  • Research has found that individuals with AAC vary widely in their cognitive abilities. As the authors of this study stated, there are no cognitive prerequisite skills that an individual must "prove" prior to the introduction of AAC.

  • Any person who has unmet communication needs through their verbal speech should be provide with the opportunity to learn to communicate through the use of AAC. Again, this may be low-tech or high-tech! Regardless of what type of AAC system is used, any person should have the chance to learn to use AAC for communication.

Myth 4: Children have to be a certain age to be able to benefit from AAC

  • According to Romski and Sevcik (2005), there is no research evidence that says a child has to be a certain chronological age to benefit from AAC intervention. This ties into Myth 2 as parents and even some clinicians may believe that the introduction of AAC "too early" will prevent the child from developing speech.

  • There are many children who are at risk for communication deficits due to certain medical diagnoses. Introduction of AAC as early as possible, whether that's unaided or aided communication, low-tech or high-tech AAC, allows the child to learn to communicate effectively for a variety of communicative functions all while addressing speech development through skilled speech therapy.

Want to learn more? Check out our webinar on AAC myths here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4E-k25c_HUA


References:

  • Millar, D. C., Light, J., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49(2), 248–264. https://doi.org/10.1044/1092-4388(2006/021)

  • Rice, M., & Kemper, S. (1984). Child language and cognition: Contemporary issues. University Park Press.

  • Romski, M., & Sevcik, R. A. (2005). Augmentative communication and early intervention: Myths and realities. Infants & Young Children, 18(3), 174–185. https://doi.org/10.1097/00001163-200507000-00002  

Katie Threlkeld, M.S., CCC-SLP is a licensed, ASHA-certified speech-language pathologist and the Educational Program Developer at Forbes AAC. She has over eight years of experience in AT and AAC assessment and treatment with both the pediatric and adult populations. Katie has presented at the state and national level on AAC topics and she has University teaching experience at the undergraduate and graduate level.

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