Someone mentioned AAC to me. What is it?

AAC stands for Augmentative and Alternative Communication. This means that someone (your doctor, speech therapist, teacher etc.), thinks that your child or client would benefit from alternative means of communication. This means could be pictures, a simple button with messages recorded on it, or a high tech touch screen device.

How is AAC going to benefit my child/client?

Giving your client an alternative means of communication will allow them the opportunity to communicate with the world. We believe that the goal of AAC is to give the individual the ability to say whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want to whomever they want. In many cases, your child or client may be acting out (exhibiting negative behaviors) due to the inability to communicate effectively. They may just want to ask to be moved, or ask for a drink, or tell you they don't like something, but instead, they hit or yell or injure themselves. AAC is not just one "thing" that the individual will use to communicate. It is a combination of several different methods that will allow him or her to communicate in all environments.

Why hasn't anyone mentioned this before?

AAC can be an intimidating and expensive process. Many speech therapists, occupational therapists, teachers or doctors have very little training or experience using AAC. It is also a life changing process for the family.  Using AAC is also a big commitment on the families' part. AAC is truly successful with the support of the family, schools, caregivers and therapists.

How do I go about getting an AAC evaluation?

There are a few ways to get an AAC evaluation. If you have a school age child, some school districts employ AAC specialists or AT (assistive technology specialists). You can request that this specialist comes out to the school and evaluate your child. If you are a caregiver of an adult, you can contact your local hospital, a speech therapist in your area, or even your doctor. Some of the high tech companies (i.e. DynaVox, Blink-Twice, Tobii, Prentke Romich Comany/PRC, Saltillo) have representatives in your area that will come out and show you their equipment. The representatives can not recommend their device or write an evaluation for funding, but they can educate you and suggest someone to go to for an evaluation and funding.

What should I expect from an AAC evaluation?

Every school district and evaluation center has it's own process and paperwork for completing an AAC evaluation. Some centers will only complete the evaluation for the device (Speech Generating Device or SGD) and some will develop a complete augmentative communication system with the family and/or teachers. During the evaluation, the specialist will look at the student/client, the environments the student/client are in, the tasks he/she will need to do and the tools he/she needs to do these tasks. The specialist may ask the family/caregiver/teacher how the client currently communicates, in what situations does he/she get frustrated; medical history; school environments and many other questions. It is important to answer the questions and complete the paperwork as thoroughly as possible. Remember, using AAC is a process, most schools and practices require several visits and trials with different methods before they recommend something.

Will Insurance or Medicaid pay for the AAC device or therapy to use the device?

If you choose to pursue an AAC evaluation or therapy privately, you should contact your insurance company prior to your evaluation or treatment to see what they will cover.  Some insurances may pay for all or a portion the evaluation, therapy or the device. Insurance and Medicaid typically do not pay for AAC devices under $1000. When billing insruance for AAC evaluations or treatment, clinics may use one of the following CPT codes (Current Procedural Terminology or CPT codes are numbers assigned to every task and service a medical practitioner may provide to a patient including medical, surgical and diagnostic services. They are then used by insurers to determine the amount of reimbursement that a practitioner will receive by an insurer):

92605 - Evaluation for prescription of non-speech generating augmentative and alternative communication device
92606 - Therapeutic service(s) for the use of non-speech generating device, including programming and modification
92607 - Evaluation for prescription for speech-generating augmentative and alternative communication device, face-to-face with the patient, first hour
92608 - Evaluation for prescription for speech-generating augmentative and alternative communication device, face-to-face with the patient, each additional 30 minutes
92609 – Therapeutic services for the use of speech-generating device, including programming and modification

Will my child or client stop talking or not develop more speech because of using AAC?

This is probably one of the most common questions and fears that we hear. Every individual is different, but in many cases, the AAC method chosen encourages more vocalizations. Please see our "AAC and Natural Speech" page for more research about this.

The #1 Misconception about AAC Users:

The #1 misconception about AAC users is that they are not capable. Just because this person is nonverbal or difficult to understand does not mean that they are not able to do anything. Many times, the client or child's receptive language (what they understand) is sigificantly higher than their expressive language (what they speak/communicate).

More information about "the basics"

Please see: http://www.lburkhart.com/gphb.htm