Frequently Asked Questions about Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

What is AAC?

AAC is a term used to describe any method of communication that adds to or “augments” speech. This can include anything from signs and gestures, to picture symbols or even high-tech devices involving computer technology.

Will AAC impact language development?

The use of AAC will not delay or impede language development, and often can help improve spoken language. It also allows for many individuals to express themselves fully when spoken language may be difficult.

Who uses AAC?

Anyone who has difficulty expressing themselves via spoken language may benefit from AAC. AAC users may have limited spoken language, unclear speech, or find spoken language difficult in social settings. The cause of the communication impairment may be present at birth (autism or cerebral palsy), occurring later in life due to injury or illness (stroke or head injury), or may worsen throughout the person’s life.

How do I know if AAC is right for my child?

Your child’s speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help guide you through the decision process. You may notice that your child is already using simple AAC such as signs and gestures in his therapy sessions. If a more robust system would be beneficial for your child, your child’s SLP may recommend a more comprehensive evaluation in which various professionals can help select the most appropriate system.

Meryl Schnapp M.A., CCC-SLP
Speech-Language Pathologist

“I don’t like it when they yell at me”: Deescalation and the Calm Response

“I don’t like it when they yell at me.”

I often hear this phrase when working with children. Imagine you have driven into a busy intersection before your turn and another driver starts yelling and honking loudly. It would be easy to become defensive and ready to argue with the other driver. This could also be a natural response for a resistant child who is yelled at by mom or dad. Yelling seems to be an easy fix to an immediate problem when we feel tired or overwhelmed, but it will often make your child more upset.

It has been said that a gentle answer will deescalate anger. Often, an angry person can be calmed down by a simple, quiet, and empathetic response. He or she will be more likely to communicate and resolve the issue that is causing them to feel angry or frustrated. When your child is upset, don’t match their level of emotion. Try to remain calm and clear headed. Use quiet, kind words to help them relax to a point where they are able to express their thoughts and feelings. Your child will feel respected and understood, even if they cannot have their way.

As always, consistency is the key to any discipline process. It is important to set boundaries with your child and this may take time as you develop a habit of calm communication. If your child has become accustomed to yelling, he or she may no longer respond to it. Don’t give in to harsher words or a higher volume. With patient work and loving communication, you and your child can enjoy living in a yell-free home!

If you have questions related to determining strategies for responding to behavioral challenges, please contact one of our pediatric social workers.

Laura Mauriello, MS, LCSW, DT