Posted in Communication

Why Use Augmentative Communication?

When babies and toddlers have speech that is absent, delayed, or hard to understand, they benefit from the addition of other forms of communication, including signs, pictures, and voice output (buttons or computers that “talk”). These additional forms of communication are referred to as augmentative and alternative communication, or AAC.

Sometimes, parents are afraid that if other ways of communicating are added, kids might not learn to talk as early or as well. However, research has shown that introducing AAC increases speech 89% of the time and never decreases speech (meta-analysis by Millar, Light, and Schlosser, 2006).

Parents and some therapists also might wonder if it’s too early to introduce AAC to a young child. However, a systematic review (a professional article that summarizes the results of many different research studies) of AAC in Early Intervention (Romski, Sevcik, Barton, Hulsey, and Whitemore, 2015) showed that AAC had lots of benefits for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. The research included in that systematic review showed that introducing AAC helps to improve young children’s language skills in the following ways:

  • Increases expressive vocabulary (Adamson  &  Dunbar,  1991;      Barton,  Sevcik,  &  Romski,  2006;  Bondy  &  Frost,  1994;  Lüke,  2014;      Wright,  Kaiser,  Reikowsky,  &  Roberts,  2013)
  • Increases multi-‐word combinations  and grammatical  skills    (Binger  &  Light,  2007;  Harris,  Skarakis  Doyle,  &  Haff,  1996).
  • Increases the functions  for  which  children communicate  (Light  et  al.,  1985  a,  b,  &  c)
  • Increases children’s conversational  turns   (Light  et  al.,  1985  a,  b,  &  c)
  • Increases the number  of  back- and- forth   interactions  between  children  and  their  parents  (Pennington  &  McConachie,  1999;  Light,  Binger,  &  Kelford  Smith,  1994).
  • Increases  language  comprehension  (Brady,  2000;  Drager  et  al.,  2006)

Other research has shown that introducing AAC can help kids with their behavior and self-regulation skills. For example, studies of found the following benefits of introducing AAC:

  • Decreases negative behaviors caused or worsened by difficulty communicating (e.g.,   in   combination   with   functional  communication   training   (Durand,   1993,   Mirenda,   1997)
  • Improves transitions between activities (e.g.,  Dettmer,  Simpson,  Myles,  and  Ganz,  2000)

Overall, if children are having trouble communicating because of a speech delay or disorder, using AAC strategies like sign language, pictures, and communication devices can help kids to talk more, develop stronger language and social skills, and improve their behavior. It’s a good idea to start using some of these strategies as soon as possible to keep kids from becoming too frustrated or falling too far behind.

References:

Adamson, L. B., & Dunbar, B. (1991). Communication development of young children with tracheostomies. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 7, 275–283.

Barton, A.,Sevcik, R.A., & Romski , M. A . (2006). Exploring visual-graphic symbol acquisition by pre-school age children with developmental and language delays . Augmentative and Alternative Communication , 22 , 10 – 20.

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 .

Binger, C. , & Light , J . (2007). The effect of aided AAC modeling on the expression of multi-symbol messages by preschoolers who use AAC . Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 23, 30–43.

Bondy, A.S., & Frost, L.A. (1994). The picture exchange communication system. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 9, 1– 19. Dettmer, S., Simpson, R.L, Myles, B.S., and Ganz, J.B., (2000). The use of visual supports to facilitate transitions of students with autism. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 15:3, 163-169.

Drager, K., Postal, V.J., Carrolus, 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.

Durand, V., (1993). Functional communication training using assistive devices: effects on challenging behavior and affect. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 9:3, 168<176.

Harris, L., Skarakis Doyle , E., & Haaf, R . (1996). Language treatment approach for users of AAC: Experimental single-subject investigation. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 12, 230–243.

Light, J.C., Binger, C., & Kelford Smith, A. (1994). Story reading interactions between preschoolers who use AAC and their mothers . Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 10, 255–268.

Light, J.C., Collier, B., & Parnes, P. (1985a). Communicative
Casey Bryn McCarthy Benefits of AAC for Young Children, 2015 Light, J.C., Collier, B., & Parnes, P. (1985b). Communicative interaction between young nonspeaking physically disabled children and their primary caregivers: Part II – Communicative function Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 1, 98 – 107. interaction between young nonspeaking physically disabled children and their primary caregivers: Part I – Discourse patterns. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 1, 74–83.

Light, J.C., Collier, B., & Parnes, P. (1985c). Communicative interaction between young nonspeaking physically disabled children and their primary caregivers: Part III – Modes of communication. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 1, 125 – 133.

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, 0, 1–9.

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

Mirenda, P., (1997). Supporting individuals with challenging behavior through functional communication training and AAC: research review. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 13:4, 207-225.

Pennington, L., & McConachie, H. (1999). Mother–child interaction revisited: Communication with non-speaking physically disabled children. International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders, 34, 391 – 416.

Romski, M., Sevcik, R.A., Barton-Hulsey, A., and Whitmore, A.S. (2015). Early Intervention and AAC: what a difference 30 years makes. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 31:3, 181-202.

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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