AAC and Technology

Augmentative & Alternative Communication
& Technology

What is AAC?

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) represents devices, methods, or systems used to supplement speech or when speech has not developed or has been lost. For a student with ASD and students with other disabilities who have not yet developed language or who struggle to use language effectively, AAC devices and methods can be extremely beneficial.

For some individuals, AAC will remain their primary communication tool for most of their life. In other cases, the AAC device will be faded out once spoken language begins to emerge as an effective communication strategy.

How Does AAC Benefit Those with Autism and Other Communication Problems?


AAC represents an aspect of communication intervention, which is usually a central focus of educational programming for students with ASD. Speech/Language therapists should always consider the potential use of AAC for students with the struggle to acquire speech, particularly when the research suggests that AAC interventions can possibly jumpstart spoken language development.

What is the Role of Technology at AHRC New York City?

Technology has certainly become an integral part of everyone’s daily life and a central aspect of most workplaces, and the classroom is no exception. AHRC New York City schools recognize the potential role of technology in classrooms and schools and are constantly identifying new ways to insert technology into the lessons, when necessary. To that end, AHRC New York City has a dedicated Technology Training Director who oversees the introduction, use, maintenance, and evaluation of technology in the classrooms. Along with acquiring all of the necessary technological equipment, the Training Director provides teacher workshops and training to ensure that every teacher is familiar with the available technology and comfortable integrating these modern supports into more traditional instructional settings.

In AHRC New York City classrooms and schools, the primary technological tools are:

  • Personal computers
  • iPads
  • SmartBoards

Every teacher has a computer in the classroom and can use it to identify teaching tools, supplement lesson content, provide computer-based instruction in specific cases, and occasionally serve as a reward for students who are particularly motivated by using technology. There are enumerable resources online that can help teachers present content in new and exciting ways. Also, each school has a Media Room that allows students to learn about technology and its possible benefits while together in the same location.

iPads are also available to all teachers. In the classrooms, the iPads can be used to present content visually, provide a hands-on tool for students to demonstrate their communication, artistic or other skills, and, as with computers, can sometimes be used reinforcement for students with a special interest in them. The growing “app” field has also included a burgeoning number of education-based applications and can often present ideas in fascinating, memorable ways.

AAC as used at AHRC Middle High School

A SmartBoard in use by students of AHRC Middle High School

The third primary technological support for teachers is the SmartBoard, an interactive whiteboard that is seen in more and more classrooms across the country. Each classroom has either a permanently installed SmartBoard or has access to a mobile SmartBoard. SmartBoards can replace traditional blackboards or dry-erase boards as instruments for presenting content to a larger group of students. Teachers can easily display computer-based content on a much larger screen and SmartBoards’ touchscreen quality allows students to interact with or manipulate on-screen items. This capitalizes on the students’ propensity for visually-based and interactive learning and can facilitate the presentation of fast-paced, motivating lessons for multiple students at the same time.