AAC – Augmentative and Alternative Communication
AAC, or augmentative and alternative communication, represents communication devices for autistic people and other individuals with impaired speech or language skills. Combined with speech therapy, AAC devices and systems provide a means for autistic individuals to “speak" and communicate - in essence, providing a “voice" for those who previously had none.
The Picture Exchange Communication System, known as PECS, is one of the easiest and least expensive forms of AAC. Picture cards depicting common objects and actions can initiate and facilitate communication for those who are non-verbal, or have impaired speech and language skills. Through individual picture cards, or incorporated into a game, PECS works through a series of six phases to help an autistic person progress in his or her acquisition of speech. The paired action of exchanging a picture card of a desired object with a communication partner (e.g., parent, teacher, or speech therapist) who says what the picture represents as he or she hands the object to the autistic individual, or assists with the activity, helps him or her to make the connection between the picture and what it represents. Research studies have revealed statistics demonstrating the success of regular PECS use, resulting in autistic individuals acquiring speech and language skills.
PECS book with pages of individual picture cards and a sentence strip at the bottom.
Voice Output Communication Aids, known as VOCAs, are a step above PECS. Using a similar pictorial representation as symbols on the keys or buttons, these hand-held devices provide pre-recorded messages that “say" the name of the objects or actions depicted on the keys or buttons. This action helps autistic individuals communicate needs, as well as participate in class or family activities.
This VOCA is a "Voice in a Box" that allows an autistic individual to communicate.