AAC Myths and Facts

As you learned in last month’s blog post, use of AAC can help children to communicate their wants, needs, feelings, and ideas. But how do we know when AAC is appropriate to use? Are there cases in which spoken language alone should be modeled? In this week’s post, we are exploring common misconceptions about AAC and providing you with research evidence to help you better understand just how useful AAC can be!

MYTH #1: Using AAC will hinder spoken language development and should not be used until the use of natural speech has been ruled out.

FACT: The introduction of AAC does not hinder the development of natural speech. In fact, AAC has actually been found to increase natural speech when therapy utilizes a multimodal approach of simultaneously targeting AAC and spoken communication (Millar, Light, and Schlosser, 2006; Sedey, Rosin, & Miller, 1991). A 2014 study with minimally-verbal individuals with ASD found that an intervention that involved a Speech Generating Device (SGD) increased the use of novel utterances compared with the same intervention which did not use an SGD. (Kasari et al). Additionally, for children who struggle with challenging behaviors, AAC can help them to more effectively communicate their wants and needs, reducing the frustration that may result from communication breakdowns (Carr & Durrand, 1985; Drager, Light, & McNaughton, 2010; Mirenda, 1997; Robinson & Owens, 1995).

MYTH #2 Young children are not able to use and understand AAC.

FACT: Early introduction of AAC can aid in the development of natural speech and language (Lüke, 2014; Romski et al., 2010; Wright, Kaiser, Reikowsky, & Roberts, 2013) and can increase expressive and receptive vocabulary for children younger than 3 (Romski, Sevcik, Barton-Hulsey, & Whitmore, 2015; Brady, 2000; Drager et al., 2006).

MYTH #3: There are cognitive prerequisite skills for using AAC, and it is not appropriate for children with cognitive disabilities.

FACT: Development of language skills through AAC can actually lead to functional cognitive improvement (Goosens’, 1989). AAC intervention for children with complex communication needs helps children develop communication skills, promotes cognitive development, provides the foundation for literacy development, and improves social communication (Drager et al., 2010).

This blog post was adapted from the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s Practice Portal. The full article can be found here.

Written by Megan Romanczyk, M.S. CF-SLP


  1. Brady, N. C. (2000). Improved comprehension of object names following voice output communication aid use: Two case studies. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 16, 197–204.

  2. Carr, E., & Durand, M. (1985). Reducing behavior problems through functional communication training. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 18, 111–126.

  3. Drager, K. D. R., Postal, V. J., Carroulus, L., Castellano, M., Gagliano, C., & Glynn, J. (2006). The effect of aided language modeling on symbol comprehension and production in 2 preschoolers with autism. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 15, 112–125.

  4. Drager, K. D. R., Light, J., & McNaughton, D. (2010). Effects of AAC interventions on communication and language for young children with complex communication needs. Journal of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine: An Interdisciplinary Approach, 3, 303–310.

  5. Goossens', C. (1989). Aided communication intervention before assessment: A case study of a child with cerebral palsy. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 5, 14–26.

  6. Kasari, C., Kaiser, A., Goods, K., Nietfeld, J., Mathy, P., Landa, R., . . . Almirall, D. (2014). Communication interventions for minimally verbal children with autism: A sequential multiple assignment randomized trial. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, 53, 635–646.

  7. Lüke, C. (2014). Impact of speech-generating devices on the language development of a child with childhood apraxia of speech: A case study. Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 11, 80–88.

  8. Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: A research review. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 49, 248–264.

  9. Mirenda, P. (1997). Supporting individuals with challenging behavior through functional communication training and AAC: Research review. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 13, 207–225.

  10. Robinson, L., & Owens, R. (1995). Functional augmentative communication and behavioral change. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 11, 207–211.

  11. Romski, M., Sevcik, R. A., Adamson, L. B., Cheslock, M., Smith, A., Barker, M., & Bakeman, R. (2010). Randomized comparison of augmented and nonaugmented language interventions for toddlers with developmental delays and their parents. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 53, 350–364.

  12. 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, 181–202.

  13. Sedey, A., Rosin, M., & Miller, J. (1991, November). The use of signs among children with Down syndrome. Poster presented at the Annual Convention of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, Atlanta, GA.

  14. Wright, C. A., Kaiser, A. P., Reikowsky, D. I., & Roberts, M. Y. (2013). Effects of a naturalistic sign intervention on expressive language of toddlers with Down syndrome. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 56, 994–1008.



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