How Many Ways Can AAC Help People Who Can Speak?

While most of the clients who are referred to me are children on the Autism Spectrum,  I also see clients post-stroke, with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), with cerebral palsy - a whole range of clients.

Most of my blog posts are either general AAC tips and resources, I do focus on children and young adults, and usually at the beginning of their AAC journey.  I want to help people. Get. Started. Right. Because that is often where the breakdown begins.

But I also do see adults; some of whom are new to AAC, and others who are looking for a better answer than the one they've got.

I recently saw a young woman with cerebral palsy who was in her mid-20's.  She had been offered AAC when she was in high school, but was never interested in using it.  After all, she was verbal, and didn't want to be seen as anything but.

I see this a lot.

BUT.  Here's the ah-ha moment.  When she got her AA degree and got a job working in a school, she realized that she needed the students to understand her.  And....they didn't.  They couldn't.

Her dysarthria, a direct result of her cerebral palsy, was making her speech all but impossible to understand.

And, let's face it.  Kids are not the most patient of all humans.

We often forget about the "Augmentative" part of Alternative-Augmentative Communication.  But many individuals who have speech are not able to use it effectively to communicate in all contexts.  This may be because of a motor speech disorder, or because of a retrieval disorder, or because - secondary to any number of disorders - they need language to be visual.

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This goes beyond the "Let's wait and see" attitude often seen when children have a little speech.  Those kids really do need an effective communication mode NOW. (Check out my Myths of AAC handout here.)


Susan Berkowitz, MS CCC-SLP, MEd., has been a speech-language pathologist for 40 years. She has worked mostly with children and adults with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, and other developmental disabilities, as well as 8 years in the language-based classrooms in a school district. Susan has worked in public and non-public schools, residential settings, and nonprofit community agencies. She has written for peer-reviewed professional journals and presented at international conferences. Visit her website  and blog for additional resources. For her complete resume, click here.