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The ABCs of AAC

August means back-to-school season for many teachers, clinicians, students, and families! AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

  • AAC is augmentative when used to supplement existing speech, alternative when used in place of speech that is absent or not functional, or temporary as when used by patients postoperatively in intensive care (Elsahar et al., 2019).

  • AAC is a term used to describe various methods and strategies to enhance the communication skills and abilities of people with various communication challenges.

  • AAC provides a means for individuals with communication challenges allowing them to express themselves, understand others, and actively participate in social interactions, education, work, and daily life activities.

Over the next several weeks we are highlighting one AAC topic for each letter of the alphabet on our social media. Follow us below!

This week's blog post is a preview of what's to come!

A is for Always Available

  • AAC should ALWAYS be within reach and ready to go. You never know when a person will have something to say!

  • Ensure that the AAC system is accessible at all times and easy to carry around if possible. Technology-based AAC devices should have sufficient battery life and be durable.

  • Take a look at the XTNDR Battery Pack from Forbes AAC - with the XTNDR™ battery pack, users can experience up to sixteen hours the normal use! It provides AAC users with incredible continuous run times without adding any bulk or weight to the sleek device.

C is for Core Vocabulary

  • A solid set of core words will fit more situations than page after page of nouns. There is power in core communication!

  • What are core words? Large number of function words (e.g., it, that, is, the, can) and a small number of content words that occur frequently (e.g., go, want, more) while fringe vocabulary is the 20% of our speech that is specific to people, places, and things (Beukelman & Light, 2020).

  • Best practice? Not to include or eliminate vocabulary based on categorization of words as “core” or “fringe” but find a balance between the two that best matches natural language development and vocabulary acquisition (Cargill & Street, 2016).

  • Learn about the CoreWord™ Language System from Forbes AAC - this system was created to provide with a powerful combination of core language, fringe vocabulary and banks of key phrases.

F is for Family

  • Relationships are the reason communication matters and no relationships matter more than the ones with family! It's recommended to involve the AAC user and their family members/caregivers in the AAC evaluation and intervention process as much as possible (ASHA, n.d.).

  • It's important to provide proper training and ongoing support to the individual using AAC, as well as to their family members and caregivers. Understanding the AAC system is crucial for successful implementation.

M is for Modeling

  • The best way to learn just about anything is to be shown how to do it. The same is true for AAC! Modeling is how we use AAC to teach AAC. Modeling, or aided language stimulation, is when the communication partner provides spoken words along with AAC symbols during conversation (ASHA, n.d.). Demonstrate the use of AAC regularly by using the AAC system yourself during conversation with the AAC user.

R is for Robust

  • A robust AAC system supports grammar, motor planning, and expanding vocabulary rather than just voicing words and simple ideas. Robust communication includes an individual's use of multiple communication methods. Allow and encourage the use of multiple communication methods, such as gestures, facial expressions, vocalizations, and AAC speech-generating devices, to enhance communication.

S is for Speech-Language Pathologist

  • A speech-language pathologist is the heart of most AAC journeys. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a central role in the screening, assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of persons requiring AAC intervention (ASHA, n.d.).

  • Roles for SLPs include training educators, family members, and other professionals on AAC implementation, complete a comprehensive AAC assessment, refer to other professionals as clinically indicated, advocate for their patients and their families/caregivers, and provide support for language development (ASHA, n.d.).

  • The SLP will re-evaluate an individual's progress with AAC regularly and make necessary adjustments to the system as their needs change or as they become more proficient.

AAC empowers individuals to participate more actively in their communities, build meaningful relationships, access education and employment opportunities, and ultimately improve their overall quality of life. It is an ever-evolving field, with ongoing research and technological advancements constantly enhancing the effectiveness and accessibility of AAC systems.

Remember, AAC is a means of communication, not a replacement for communication. The goal is to help individuals express themselves effectively and actively participate in the world around them.

Learn more about the ABCs for AAC on our social media platforms over the next few weeks!


  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (n.d.). Augmentative and Alternative Communication (Practice Portal). Retrieved August, 8, 2023, from

  • Beukelman, D. R., & Light, J. C. (2020). Augmentative and alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs (5th ed). Brookes.

  • Elsahar, Y., Hu, S., Bouazza-Marouf, K., Kerr, D., & Mansor, A. (2019). Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) advances: A review of configurations for individuals with a speech disability. Sensors, 19(8), 1911.

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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