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Will Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Stop a Person from Learning to Speak?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) refers to a diverse set of tools and strategies that support individuals with communication difficulties to express themselves effectively. AAC encompasses a wide range of techniques, including sign language, picture-based systems, communication boards, and electronic devices. However, concerns have emerged about whether AAC might hinder the development of spoken language skills in individuals. This passage aims to address this question and shed light on the impact of AAC on language acquisition, drawing upon relevant research studies and expert opinions.

AAC is designed to enhance communication abilities and provide alternative means of expression for individuals who face challenges in developing spoken language skills. It is crucial to understand that AAC is not intended to replace speech; instead, it serves as a complement, augmenting and supporting existing communication capabilities. According to Dr. Karen Erickson, an expert in AAC, "AAC does not take away the desire or motivation to speak; rather, it serves as a bridge to facilitate communication until spoken language skills emerge" (Erickson, 2012).

Contrary to the notion that AAC inhibits spoken language acquisition, research suggests that AAC can actually facilitate language development. A study conducted by Dr. Diane Millar and colleagues (2006) examined the effects of AAC intervention on preschool children with language impairments. The findings demonstrated that children who received AAC support showed significant improvements in both their expressive and receptive language skills compared to those who did not receive AAC intervention. These results indicate that AAC can act as a catalyst for language growth rather than impeding it.

AAC plays a pivotal role in fostering communication and social interactions, particularly among individuals with severe speech impairments. By providing individuals with alternative ways to express themselves, AAC empowers them to participate in conversations, engage with others, and develop meaningful relationships. The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) emphasizes that AAC can promote linguistic, cognitive, and social-emotional development in individuals of all ages (ASHA, n.d.).

Another important aspect to consider is that AAC can facilitate the transition to spoken language for individuals who are initially nonverbal or have limited verbal abilities. By using AAC tools, individuals can develop a better understanding of language structure, vocabulary, and grammar, which can ultimately support the acquisition of spoken language. Research conducted by Dr. Ralf W. Schlosser and Dr. Michael Sigafoos (2006) demonstrated that the use of AAC can enhance the emergence of spoken language in individuals with developmental disabilities.

In conclusion, Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) does not hinder a person's ability to learn to speak. On the contrary, AAC serves as a valuable tool that enhances communication abilities and supports language development. Research indicates that AAC interventions have been effective in promoting expressive and receptive language skills, facilitating social interactions, and assisting individuals in transitioning to spoken language. It is essential to view AAC as a complementary approach that empowers individuals with diverse communication needs, providing them with a means to express themselves and engage with others effectively.

To learn about more, feel free to visit the website: My Community for Autism. It is an empowering website dedicated to providing support, resources, and a sense of belonging for individuals on the autism spectrum. Together, we understand and celebrate neurodiversity, offering valuable information and connections to enhance understanding and inclusion.

Remark: This video was produced by Malaysian Association of Speech-Language and Hearing (MASH) in collaboration with Genius Kurnia and Hatching Center.


1. Erickson, K. (2012). Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Supporting Children and Adults with Complex Communication Needs (Video). Retrieved from

2. 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(2)

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