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Will Sign Language, Pictures, and Communication Apps Stop My Child From Talking?

The good news is NO!

Alternative and augmentative communication, or AAC, is any type of communication other than verbal speech. There are many types of AAC, including pictures, sign language, communication applications on iPads and other devices, and even eye gaze systems. A speech-language pathologist may recommend AAC for many different populations, including individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, and childhood apraxia of speech, and individuals who have had a neurological injury, such as a stroke.

The most common concern for individuals who use AAC and their families is that it will prevent the user from developing verbal speech. Luckily, it is quite the opposite!  In 2006, Millar, Light & Schlosser conducted a systematic review of research and found that 89% of individuals who used AAC as part of their speech and language intervention showed an INCREASE in verbal speech production! The remaining individuals showed no change in their verbal speech production. None of the people studied showed a decrease in speech!

One way to think of AAC is like training wheels on a bike! When children are learning to ride a bike, we use training wheels to help them learn the critical skills needed to succeed. If they are put on a bike without developing those skills, they often fall off, get scared or hurt, and take a very long time to ride their bike again. AAC helps a child to communicate their wants and needs, reduces frustration, teaches them cause and effect for communication, models language, teaches vocabulary, and increases joint attention.  If they are pushed to talk without their “training wheels” to develop those skills, they often become frustrated and avoid situations where they are prompted to use language. Hopefully, just like with riding a bike, we are able to fade away the “training wheels”, and the child will use verbal speech. However, the most important part to note is that the “training wheels” will not hold them back from success.

If you think that you or someone you love would benefit from the use of AAC or speech-language therapy, please contact Crawl, Walk, Jump, Run Therapy Clinic for your FREE screening with a therapist!



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