"I've heard AAC will keep him from ever speaking" -- Um, FALSE!

augmentative communication Feb 8, 2017

Sometimes we hear well meaning people express their concern that using AAC with a child or student might inhibit natural speech for that student.

While it is always good to explore questions and worries when they come up, it is also important to rely on evidence to address them.

And in this case, the answer is clear.

Time after time, study after study, experience after experience shouts from the rooftops that there is NO proof that AAC stunts speech in budding communicators.

In fact, the facts show that quite the opposite is usually true.

A study published in the American Journal of Speech and Language Pathology found that “results indicated that AAC interventions do not impede speech production. In fact, most studies reported an increase in speech production.”

In another research paper Diane Millar, Janice Light, and Ralf Schlosser state that, "AAC intervention has significant benefits in the development of communicative competence and language skills; the present best evidence...suggest AAC interventions can also have positive benefits for natural speech production."

Jeannie Krull, an ASHA certified senior assistive technology consultant, shared her insight when it comes to the thought that AAC curbs natural speech. “There have been many studies over the years that debunk this myth,” she said. She shared some of the proof in an online post, as well as a statement from the National Joint Committee for the Communication Need of Persons With Disabilities which said, “It is clear that AAC does not prevent the emergence of speech.”

Rocky Bay, a leader in disability services, shared their suggestions in their document “Positive AACtion tips for AAC teams.”

They encouraged supporters of AAC users to remember:

  1. If your child is going to continue to develop speech this will occur naturally even if they are using AAC.
  2. AAC should be introduced as soon as it is identified that speech is inadequate to meet your child’s needs.
  3. Children will always use speech, if they can, as it is the most efficient and accessible method.
  4. Children need a range of methods to be able to communicate with all people in all situations.

But study results and speech professionals are not the only ones to attack the notion that AAC could be a detriment to vocalized speech. AAC users themselves have a few very intelligent things to say on the topic.

Jamie Knight, an autistic blogger who writes about her experiences as she engages the world and relies on AAC, says of situations where someone is denied AAC to encourage actual speech, “I think this is well meaning, but ultimately does not stand up to analysis. In my experience, the approach can do more damage than good.” (Read more about Jamie’s poignant thoughts and an excellent analogy on the topic of AAC and vocalized speech here.)

There is a large body of evidence which proves time and again the truth of this matter. The use of augmentative communication does NOT keep language learners from developing speech. Instead, it gives them a reliable way to express themselves and helps them interact with the world around them.

And that seems like a really good thing.

Melissa DeMoux

Former CoughDrop Director of Marketing and Support -- worked with AAC communicators & teams