Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may have difficulties with verbal communication. Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is designed to aid communication and serve as a supplement to verbal speech for children with communication challenges.  

Understanding AAC 

AAC includes various tools and methods of communication that can supplement or replace speech or writing (ASHA, n.d.). Options like sign language, visual supports such as picture cards, and high-tech devices with speech-generation capabilities are all examples of AAC. The ultimate goal of AAC is to facilitate effective communication, enhance social interaction, and foster an inclusive environment for children with communication challenges, including those with ASD.

A child using an AAC device.

AAC's Impact on Autistic Children 

AAC systems can help to transform the communication abilities of autistic children. These systems do not hinder speech development; in fact, they may promote it. Research indicates that AAC use can lead to improvements in communication, speech production, and social interaction (Ganz et al., 2012).  

With AAC, children who are non-vocal or have limited speech abilities have an avenue to communicate their needs, reducing potential frustration and increasing the likelihood of social integration and independence.  

Choosing the Right AAC System  

Selecting the right AAC system depends on the unique needs, abilities, and goals of the child. The decision should involve a team of individuals, including the child’s caregivers as well as speech-language pathologists, teachers, and occupational therapists (Romski et al., 2010).  

At Cortica, we provide AAC evaluations, programming, support, and parent training for using AAC devices. Our speech-language pathologists at Cortica are equipped with the knowledge to help your family determine the best AAC system that works for your needs.

A caregiver and young child using an AAC device to communicate.

Breakthroughs in AAC technology offer a ray of hope for children and their families. By adopting AAC systems, we can remove communication barriers and empower individuals to express themselves. In doing so, we build a more inclusive society where every voice, spoken or otherwise, is heard and valued. 



American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). 

ASHA. (n.d.). Augmentative and alternative communication. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. Retrieved from 

Ganz, J. B., Earles-Vollrath, T. L., Heath, A. K., Parker, R. I., Rispoli, M. J., & Duran, J. B. (2012). A meta-analysis of single case research studies on aided augmentative and alternative communication systems with individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 42(1), 60–74.  

Romski, M., Sevcik, R. A., Barton-Hulsey, A., & Whitmore, A. S. (2015). Early intervention and AAC: What a difference 30 years makes. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 31(3), 181–202. DOI: 10.3109/07434618.2015.1064163