Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC)

Augmentative Alternative Communication (AAC) is used when a person has either limited speech, unintelligible speech, or no functional speech.

Those who have some speech skills are encouraged to utilize them in addition to AAC. Many studies have shown that use of AAC has frequently proven to have a positive impact on speech development, and that children who use AAC often develop speech faster than they would have without using an alternative way of communication.

 Individuals with little/no functional speech often:

  • play a passive role in communication
  • tend to initiate few social interactions
  • respond infrequently to communication attempts
  • have a limited number of communicative functions and are at increased risk for learned helplessness
  • have difficulty expressing their wants, needs, feelings, and ideas

AAC helps these individuals become more independent across settings, helps them take care of their own wants and needs, and increases social interaction opportunities.


Low tech AAC is any type of communication method that is not considered to be electronic.  Low Tech AAC can be both aided and unaided.   

Aided AAC systems are those that  require some sort of equipment outside of one’s body.  It can vary from a pen and paper to a book full of pages containing pictures and symbols.  

Many individuals who use low tech AAC devices for communication also use other types of AAC.

Here are some low tech AAC examples:

  • Pen and Paper
    • This allows an individual to write or draw their message.  White boards and crayons or markers are other alternatives.
  • Core Words Board
    • This board consists of a few basic symbols that an individual can point to in order to communicate.  These boards are usually a laminated sheet of paper therefore they are relatively quick and inexpensive to make.
  • Pictures/Symbols
    • Some pictures, similar to those on a core words board, are laminated and cut into cards.  An individual can use these cards to communicate with a partner.
  • Communication Book
    • Communication books contain multiple pages of symbols that are familiar and functional for the individual.  The pages are often organized by category (toys, food, clothes).
  • Sign Language
    • Sign language is unaided, visually based, and provides a quick mode of communication.
    • It is important to remember that when teaching and using sign language one can pair it with verbal language. For some individuals, using the visual of the signed word can help them in a transition to verbal speech as the sign acts as a visual aid for spoken words.

Advantages/Disadvantages of Low Tech AAC

Low tech AAC options come with both advantages and disadvantages.  


They are:

  • economical,
  • customizable
  • flexible with communication partners and environments
  • easily replaceable.


Low tech AAC options: 

  • have no voice output which eliminates a sensory input opportunity
  • may be cumbersome to carry around and can have limited vocabulary based on the situation in which it is being used

If you have any questions regarding any of these modes of communication or AAC in general, we are happy to help!

Membership Communication Boards

New communication boards materials are up in both English and Spanish. 

1. Communication Boards with Words (English & Spanish)

2. Pictures Only Communication Boards (English & Spanish)

3. Communication Boards & Expand Phrases (English & Spanish)

Member's Access

Click the buttons below to access your communication boards.


  • ASHA:
  • - Light, Mid, High Tech AAC. Same… but Different
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