Does AAC Slow Down Spoken Language?

One of the biggest myths of speech and language development is that the introduction of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication, from speech devices to sign language) can block or slow down the development of speech. But it's simply not supported by the evidence.

In fact, research shows that AAC actually supports speech development.

In one systematic review, researchers looked across nearly three decades of research related to the effects of AAC usage on the development of speech in children with developmental disabilities. Another subsequent study asked the same question for children with autism. Both research reviews found the following:

"Results indicated that AAC interventions do not impede speech production. In fact, most studies reported an increase in speech production. However, in-depth analyses revealed that the gains were rather modest." (Millar, Light, & Schlosser, 2008)

For children who can exhibit challenging behaviors, AAC can also offer an outlet of communication for their wants and needs, which may reduce frustrations related to communication.

Why does AAC sometimes help with speech development? Many AAC systems, notably speech-generated devices (SGDs), are built on a Core Words approach that can mimic typical language development. In some systems, there is also a systematic focus on literacy that is designed to build these skills and neural pathways, as well.

If you have questions about AAC and your child's speech and language development, reach out to your Sidekick therapist today.

Paul Rice, M.S., CCC-SLP


"Effects of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Intervention on Speech Production in Children With Autism: A Systematic Review" by Ralf W. Schlosser and Oliver Wendt in American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, August 2008, Vol. 17, 212-230. doi:10.1044/1058-0360(2008/021) 

"The Impact of Augmentative and Alternative Communication Intervention on the Speech Production of Individuals With Developmental Disabilities: A Research Review" by Diane C. Millar, Janice C. Light and Ralf W. Schlosser in Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, April 2006, Vol. 49, 248-264. doi:10.1044/1092-4388(2006/021)


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