Let’s Learn ABA: AAC

Hi BTL Fam!

You may have heard of  the acronym “AAC”. However, do you know what it is? What AAC stands for? AAC is often a confusing and unknown topic which can be concerning to parents and caregivers!

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. In simpler terms, it is a way of communicating that is often different from our more familiar communication with verbal language. These devices serve as a tool to allow an individual to communicate with those around them without having to use speech. Some AAC devices include tables, iPads, or electronic devices. However, AAC can be as simple as a written word on a piece of paper or typing a text on our phones. We use AAC everyday without even realizing it!

For some individuals with Autism, vocal speech may be very difficult to perform. AAC allows those individuals to communicate in their own way. Imagine wanting to express your wants and needs with your hand over your mouth. You know what you want to say, but you can’t get the words out the way they should be. Thus, leaving you stuck in a place where you can’t communicate with others. AAC gives us an option to remove that barrier and express ourselves without vocalizing words or phrases.

Some individuals find that devices like an iPad or tablet are the best to use. These devices often come with a downloaded program with icons that allows the speaker to press the icon which vocalizes what they are wanting to say. Many times they may look like this:


Others use a system such as PECS or a Picture Exchange Communication System. A system, like PECS, involves the speaker giving or placing a picture to reference what they are communicating. For example, a young child may point to the picture for “ball” when referencing that they want the ball. This may also be expanded to using multiple pictures at once. For example a child may pick the following pictures:


This child seems to be communicating “I want red ball”. This picture system has allowed the individual to express their wants and needs with a system that does not require vocalizations.

AAC devices can be very helpful for nonverbal individuals or those who may have trouble communicating with vocalized words. If you feel as though this would benefit your child or loved ones, consider speaking to your child’s BCBA or Speech Language Pathologist (SLP). It is always important to work closely with everyone who may be providing care to your child when determining which AAC device will benefit your child the most.

As always, feel free to reach out with any questions you may have over this topic!

Until next time, BTL Fam!

Heidi Mann, BCBA, Outreach Consultant