What is Communication ?

Communication can take many forms such as: speech, sign language, gestures, facial expressions, text, touch, symbols, pictures, speech-generating devices, etc. Everyone uses multiple forms of communication, based upon the context and our communication partner. Effective communication occurs when the intent and meaning of one individual is understood by another person. The form is less important than the successful understanding of the message.

Courtesy: ISAAC

What happens when children (people) have speech difficulties?

People with speech difficulties are not able to make themselves heard. 

Their speech difficulty prevents them from expressing their needs, wants, feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Mingling with friends or attending regular school becomes tough. Their preferences are often taken for granted and intentions are second-guessed. People's expectations of them are generally lower, for no fault of theirs. This leads to poor self-esteem and confidence. If the communication is left unattended to, over time, it leads to anxiety and behaviour issues. All of these prevents the individual from leading an inclusive, fulfilling life and reaching their potential.

As a society, we take communication for granted. But for non-verbal individuals, a means to communicate empowers them to lead a life of equality & dignity. 

What happens when a person is unable to communicate ?

When a person is not able to communicate his needs or thoughts or ideas, he goes through intense frustration. If this communication problem is not addressed, over time, it turns into anxiety, annoyance and exasperation and may develop into deep-rooted behaviour issues. Their inability to mix with peers leads to poor self-esteem and a life of exclusion and loneliness. 

What is the solution ? AAC

What is AAC?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication.  AAC stands for all forms of communication, other than natural speech. 

As per ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association):

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an area of clinical practice that addresses the needs of individuals with significant and complex communication disorders characterized by impairments in speech-language production and/or comprehension, including spoken and written modes of communication.

Coutesy: ASHA

As per ISAAC (International Society for AAC):

AAC is a set of tools and strategies that an individual uses to solve everyday communicative challenges.

Courtesy: ISAAC

How does AAC help ?

Avaz supports children as well as adults with speech disabilities, by offering them an alternative method to communicate. It enables them to express their ideas, thoughts, needs, wants, and feelings. It facilitates language development as well as opening up access to education. The broader societal benefit of enabling children with speech disabilities to "speak for themselves" is a step toward a more inclusive society, leading to equal educational and economic opportunities. 

As per ASHA:

AAC uses a variety of techniques and tools, including picture communication boards, line drawings, speech-generating devices (SGDs), tangible objects, manual signs, gestures, and finger spelling, to help the individual express thoughts, wants and needs, feelings, and ideas.

AAC is augmentative when used to supplement existing speech, and alternative when used in place of speech that is absent or not functional.

AAC may be temporary, as when used by patients postoperatively in intensive care, or permanent, as when used by an individual who will require the use of some form of AAC throughout his or her lifetime.

Coutesy: ASHA

Who should use AAC ?

AAC is useful for those whose who have speech challenges:

  1. Children and adults with speech disabilities - non-verbal, partially verbal and single word communicators.

  2. Specifically useful for conditions like Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Down’s Syndrome , PDD-NOS or any other condition that affects speech. 

  3. Adults recovering from throat cancer, stroke etc., whose speech is affected

  4. Children with delayed development indicators

  5. And numerous other genetic disorders that affect speech

Benefits of using AAC

Ability to communicate :

- Reduces anxiety

- Reduces tantrums and behavior issues

- Increases independence

- Improves social relationships

- Increases self-confidence, self-esteem

- Provides access to education =>class participation, academic progress

- Improves attention 

- Provides access to equal opportunities at education and work

- Empowers the individual and helps achieve one’s goals

- Improves overall Quality of Life by living a life with Dignity and Inclusion


A very clear and lucid explanation of AAC - Listen to Susan Stokes webinar about the Basics of AAC :


Susan K. Lewis Stokes, M.A., CCC-SLP. 

Educational Autism Consultant & Trainer with over 30 years experience



Is Alternative communication needed for my child?

For those parents who are apprehensive to take the leap of faith to adopt AAC for their child, wondering if it will impede their speech or otherwise,  here is a very motivating and honest parent's account - by Dana Nieder, who championed AAC for her 18-month old child: 

    The Leap: AAC by 18 months; 3 years later

    AAC by 18 months

Types of AAC 

  • Unaided AAC - Sign Language, gestures etc. 
  • Aided AAC - Low tech and High tech 
  • Low tech AAC - PECS, picture charts/ boards ..
  • High tech - Avaz 

No-tech communication does not involve any additional equipment - hence it is  sometimes referred to as 'unaided communication'. Examples are: body language, gestures, pointing, eye pointing, facial expressions, vocalisations, signing.
For more details see: Getting started: communication without technology.

Low-tech communication systems do not need a battery to function and include: pen and paper to write messages or draw; alphabet and word boards; communication charts or books with pictures, photos and symbols; particular objects used to stand for what the person needs to understand or say. This is sometimes referred to as 'aided communication' because additional equipment is required.

High-tech communication systems need power from a battery or mains. Most of them speak and/or produce text. They range from simple buttons or pages that speak when touched, to very sophisticated systems. Some high-tech communication systems are based on familiar equipment such as mobile devices, tablets and laptops, others use equipment specially designed to support communication. This is sometimes referred to as 'aided communication' because additional equipment is required.

Related articles: 

Avaz FAQ: Myths and Facts about AAC

Avaz FAQ: AAC Primer - Resources and links