12 tips for AAC

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC): how to support your child

What is AAC?

What is AAC?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication covers a range of strategies and tools which help children communicate. These may be simple letter or picture boards, or very sophisticated computer-based systems.

How do I support my child to use AAC?

Your child may use one or more forms of AAC, and it can seem daunting at first – for you and them. But these 12 tips for AAC should help…


12 Tip for AAC

12 Tip for AAC

Model, model and model again! By using the AAC, you demonstrate to your child how they can communicate, this is known as modelling. For example, with a communication book, point to the pictures while saying the word. Ensure your child is looking at the pictures as you point. Model lots of types of communication, including requests, comments and questions.

Make it interesting. Be playful and creative and tap into your child’s interests. This will help with motivating your child to communicate
Observe, wait, listen. Allow your child time to process and think about what you’ve said, as well as time to respond. Pausing is a natural part of communication.
Explore. Your child needs time to explore the AAC – just as a baby babbles before they learn to speak.

Variety. Let your child see different types of words used, including nouns (objects, items and people), verbs (action words), adjectives (describing words) and prepositions (such as ‘on’ or ‘under’). Your child should be free to communicate about anything, not just requests.

Repeat pathways. Show your child how to get to different words, and repeat the process by going through the same pathways several times.

Be patient. It can take a while for your child to learn language. Keep modelling, and don’t worry if your child doesn’t get it immediately. All children need lots of repetition to help them learn

Ensure the AAC is available. If your child’s AAC system is not to hand, they can’t use it! There may be times when it’s not appropriate to talk, but you should never take away the AAC system. Instead, teach your child the rules and explain there are times they need to listen.

Expand and recast. Help your child learn new language by repeating their words back to them and adding another word. For example, if they say ‘cat’ you could say ‘yes, a black cat’.

Assign meaning. Think about what your child may want to say with the words they choose. For example, if they say ‘music’, you might say, ‘Oh, you are telling me you like this music’.

‘Tell me more’. Give your child opportunities to use their AAC further by asking them to tell you more. This encourages them to expand sentences, give details and communicate freely.

Say it aloud. As you use your child’s AAC, say aloud everything you are doing. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, as it helps your child understand how to solve a problem. For example, ‘I’m looking for my word, I think it’s in “descriptions”’… ‘I’m going to press clear to get rid of my sentence’… … ‘Oh dear, I’ve make a mistake, let’s delete that word’.