Tablet Learning with AAC

Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC)

Increasing Communication Right Now

Sometimes we need more than speech to be understood! Communication is a Fundamental Human Right.  AAC is used by people who, some or all of the time, cannot rely on their speech. 

Augmentative Communication is when we add something to the speech to make it clearer to the listeners. This can include using signs or pictures to clarify what you want to say.

Alternative Communication is when a different communication method is needed when we are unable to speak, or the listeners do not understand speech.

The purpose of AAC is to provide the person with a form of communication so that they can:

  • Express their needs and wants

  • Participate in making their own life choices and expressing their opinions

  • Make and maintain relationships.

  • Make connections with others at school, in the workplace and the community.

AAC may be recommended for the following reasons:

  • If spoken language is slow to develop

  • If spoken language is difficult to understand or limited

  • To support the development of language comprehension.

Types of AAC systems

We often categorize AAC systems into two groups: unaided and aided.

Unaided communication systems do not need any tools.

Aided communication systems need some form of external support and the user’s body. The table below provides examples of each system

Unaided Systems:

  • Vocalisations

  • Body movements

  • Facial expressions

  • Natural gesture

  • Signing

Aided Systems

  • Real objects

  • Object symbols (e.g. a towel to indicate swimming)

  • Photos / Pictures

  • Line drawings

  • Written words/letters

  • Electronic devices and computer systems

‘High-tech’ types of AAC usually involve devices such as speech generating devices or tablets. This form of technology may come in the form of iPads and Tablets that use specialized programs (i.e. Proloquo2Go, LAMP, AVAZ, CoughDrop, TouchChat, Speak4Yourself, CoughDrop, and more) and Voice Output Communication Aides.


Finding the right AAC system takes time and trial and error. The system may need to be modified or customized to the person’s skills, needs, wants and contexts. The speech pathologist’s role is to assess and support the prescription of an appropriate AAC system and provide the training to the user and communication partners.

Things to remember:

  • AAC systems may be either a short or a long-term solution to address communication difficulties

  • It takes time and patience.

  • It often needs communication partners to use the communication system themselves first.

  • AAC competencies develop when the practice is integrated into meaningful and functional activities across the day.