Does Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) delay verbal language production?
Short answer: No. AAC is a great way to develop functional communication!
Communication is everywhere — it is within everything we do! But remember, communication is not just verbal. Communication can also be non-verbal (e.g., gestures, eye-gaze, body language, etc.).
If a child is non-speaking, has reduced intelligibility, or requires further support with their verbal language, could you imagine how frustrating it would be for them to be REQUIRED to use verbal language to express themselves? Think about self-regulation or emotional regulation. This allows one to process and/or handle various situations, emotions, etc. in order to process/take in all that is around them (e.g., being able to take in information to learn). When frustration and pressure build when requiring a child to use verbal language, a child’s ability to self-regulate/emotionally regulate may be challenging. With this, the optimal time for modelling language has come and gone.
When implementing AAC, this allows for children to functionally communicate their wants and needs, thus reducing communication breakdowns and frustration. When the frustration and pressure are reduced, this creates a richer opportunity to model language and allows for children to learn how to create communicative attempts. As mentioned, this allows for a child to adequately self-regulate/emotionally regulate — this sets up a prime learning environment/situation.
Furthermore, AAC provides individuals with the ability to have an increased amount of visual and/or auditory support (e.g., pictures representing motivating items, speech-generating devices where a message is communicated through the device, etc.), which can also aid in the development of different modes of communication, such as verbal language.
In a research review completed by Miller, Light, and Schlosser (2006), it was found that in individuals using AAC, no one demonstrated a decrease in speech production; however, the majority of individuals actually demonstrated an increase in speech production.
Remember AAC can help provide functional communication and voices to those who need support. Access to communication, no matter the mode, is essential!
Millar, D. C., Light, J. C., & Schlosser, R. W. (2006). The impact of augmentative and alternative communication intervention on the speech production of individuals with developmental disabilities: A research review.
Emotional Regulation. Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre (n.d.). Retrieved December 17, 2021, from https://keltymentalhealth.ca/emotional-regulation