Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

There is a continuum of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) services depending on age and degree of need in Simcoe County and York Region.  

The Preschool Speech and Language Programs provide service to individuals from birth to start of junior kindergarten. Families, physicians, childcare providers, etc. can refer children by speaking to a member of the child’s Early Intervention team or by contacting Child Development Services, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (Simcoe County) or York Region Kids Line (York Region).  Services are provided in the child’s local community and may be provided in a variety of setting including daycare, family home, and clinic.  

School boards have supports available to children enrolled within their board.  Speech and language support may come from a teacher, special education resource teacher, and/or board Speech-Language Pathologist (SLP). Parents can explore the available supports by speaking with the school principal.

Children’s Treatment Network of Simcoe York – Augmentative Communication Consultation Service (ACCS) is an Assistive Devices Program (ADP) accredited general level clinic. It provides support to clients and their local teams seeking specialty team consultation to address specific AAC needs. For example, high technology device assessment and possible prescription with government funding.  SLPs can refer individuals who meet ALL of the following criteria:
  • the child/youth is younger than 19 years of age and lives in Simcoe County or York Region
  • the child/youth is a direct accessor (able to point directly to items)
  • the child/youth is an intentional symbolic communicator with picture discrimination (combination of core and fringe vocabulary)
  • the child/youth has more than one communication function beyond requesting
  • the child/youth’s receptive language (understanding) is significantly better than expressive language abilities
  • the child/youth’s communication system is used and supported at home (in addition to daycare, school, or other environments)
ACCS SLPs do not focus on verbal articulation skills directly (although research informs us that use of AAC may help develop verbal skills). Therefore, if AAC is not needed or wanted, the child/youth will be transferred back to local team for articulation supports.

Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital’s Communication and Writing Aids Service (CWAS) provides specialty consultation support to clients who are indirect or alternate accessors (unable to point directly to items). CWAS has specific referral criteria that can be found on their website.

CTN Augmentative Communication Consultation Service (ACCS)

Watch this informative video for more information on CTN’s Augmentative Communication Consultation Service.

The following document describes the various ways that ACCS can help and how to access the service. Click here to access the PDF version.

Additional resources/forms:

ACCS Referral
ACCS Consult
ACCS Clinic Day
ACCS Re-Referral


  • aoda
    What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)?

    Not being able to speak, is not the same as not having anything to say.
    Rosemary Crossley

    Being unable to speak is one of the most severe disabilities that a human being can experience.  It is difficult to really understand what it is like to be speechless without actually experiencing the condition.  Also, many persons who are severely communicatively impaired with respect to speech are also similarly impaired with respect to writing.  They are unable to write well enough to meet their communication needs.

    If you want to know what it is like to be unable to speak, there is a way.  Go to a party and don’t talk.  Play mute.  Use your hands if you wish but don’t use paper or pencil.  Paper and pencil are not always handy for mute persons.  Here is what you will find: people talking; talking behind, beside, around, over, under, through, and even for you.  But never with you.  You are ignored until finally you feel like a piece of furniture.

    Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a term that is used to describe various methods of communication that can help people who are unable to use verbal speech to communicate.  AAC can benefit a wide range of individuals, from a beginning communicator to a more sophisticated communicator who generates his own messages.  AAC includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas.  We all use AAC when we make facial expressions or gestures, use symbols or pictures, or write.

    Some individuals may have a physical or cognitive impairment which disrupts part of the communication process (plan a message, send the message, receive the message, process the message).  This may be due to a disability present from birth such as cerebral palsy or Down Syndrome, or due to an illness, injury, or degenerative disease later in life.  

    People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional.  Communication can take many forms such as: speech, a shared glance, text, gestures, facial expressions, touch, sign language, symbols, pictures, speech-generating devices, etc.  This may increase social interaction, school performance, and feelings of self-worth.  AAC users will not stop using speech if they are able to do so.  AAC tools and strategies are used to enhance individuals’ communication.  Effective communication occurs when the intent and meaning of one individual is understood by another person.  The form is less important than the successful understanding of the messageAny person with a disability that makes it difficult for them to communicate may benefit from AAC.  Some people need AAC only for a short time; others may use it throughout their lives.  AAC allows an individual to express their needs and wants, and more fully participate in decisions that affect their lives.  AAC also benefits family members and other significant others, providing a way for them to more fully communicate with their loved ones.  

    There is no risk in giving an AAC system to a child.  It will not keep the child from learning how to talk clearly.  Instead, it will help the child learn about words and language.  For some children, an AAC system is something that they will use during their entire lives.  Other children use AAC to lean about language before they eventually learn to speak clearly.  Learning about language helps them learn how to talk. Every way you look at it, having an AAC system helps the child.

    Watch this informative video for an introduction to Augmentative and Alternative Communication AAC.

    (insert link to Intro to AAC VideoSribe)

    When individuals cannot use speech to communicate effectively in all situations, there are options.

    •    No-tech communication does not involve any additional equipment - hence it is sometimes referred to as 'unaided communication'.  Examples are: body language, gestures, pointing, eye pointing, facial expressions, vocalizations, signing.

    •    Low-tech communication systems do not need a battery to function and include: pen and paper to write messages or draw; alphabet and word boards; communication charts or books with pictures, photos and symbols; particular objects used to stand for what the person needs to understand or say.  This is sometimes referred to as 'aided communication' because additional equipment is required.

    •    High-tech communication systems need power from a battery.  Most of them speak and/or produce text.  They range from simple buttons or pages that speak when touched, to very sophisticated systems.  Some high-tech communication systems are based on familiar equipment such as mobile devices, tablets and laptops, others use equipment specially designed to support communication.  This is sometimes referred to as 'aided communication' because additional equipment is required.

    The Communication Bill of Rights summarizes the importance of AAC!
    The following are some great introduction to AAC resources:
    • Video – Only God Could Hear Me
    • Poem – Please Don’t Leave My Voice on the Shelf
    • Samples of Core Displays on Playgrounds
    • Article – The Least Dangerous Assumption
    • Article – Challenging our Belief Systems regarding People with Autism and AAC: Making the Least Harmful Assumptions




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