What is AAC?

AAC stands for 'Augmentative and Alternative Communication'. This means any system other than a person's speech that is used for communicating such as signs, symbols and devices. 




Functions of Language

We communicate for so many different reasons! Asking questions, refusing, sharing news, greeting, requesting, sharing opinions. It is important that we show the AAC user how to use their system or device for all of these different functions. It is easy to get stuck on focusing the child to make requests e.g. for favourite toys or snacks. It is equally important for us to model different functions of communication e.g. sharing 'I think it's funny!' or 'who's turn?' or 'good morning' to help them to be an effective communicator. 




Modelling means demonstrating to the AAC user how to use their communication system and is one of the most effective strategies for teaching how to use a system. For example, if a child uses a symbol to say 'banana', the adult might use 2 symbols to say 'peel banana', to show the AAC user how to expand their phrase. This strategy can be used across any AAC systems: signs, symbols, switches, anything! In effect we are showing the child how to use longer phrases or how to use different wors to mean the same thing, in the same way that we would teach a typically developing child to talk using words. If you are looking for ideas in how to model language, see our handouts below for ideas: 

Core Vocabulary 

Match + 1


For advice in how to create a supportive environment for children who use alternative communication systems, please see our page 'Communication Friendly Environment'. 


What are the different types of AAC? 


Signing and Gestures

Objects of Reference



Paper based systems: Aided Language Displays, Communication Books (please see stages handouts, below)

Electronic systems


Communication Books

Stage 1 

Stage 2 

Stage 3

Stage 4