More than one in 10 children lives with a communication disorder that can affect their access to education. Fortunately, an Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) evaluation can determine how to help students with severe communication disorders engage in the same academic and social activities as their peers.

If any student at your school would benefit from an AAC system, then contact Pediatric Therapeutic services. Our experienced speech-language pathologists can offer guidance on a consultative basis to help your students get the support they need.

What is an AAC Evaluation?

An AAC evaluation is the process by which evaluators assess a student’s communication needs. It allows these evaluators to better choose the kind of Augmentative and Alternative Communication system that will be most beneficial to the student and give them the most access to their educational and social environment in the classroom.

How AAC Systems Benefit Students

Communication is key to virtually every daily activity in school. Students with severe expressive or mixed receptive-expressive communication disorders face challenges when they try to express their needs, thoughts, and feelings; comprehend what others are saying; or participate in meaningful conversations by sharing information or making comments.

Communication disorders also affect students in the classroom who need to ask questions about concepts they don’t understand, solve problems, or advocate for themselves. For these students, AAC systems unlock new possibilities, enhance students’ ability to communicate, and also:

  • Encourage cognitive development
  • Stimulate natural speech development or redevelopment
  • Enlarge vocabulary and provide a stronger foundation for literacy
  • Decrease frustrated, challenging reactions to communication breakdowns
  • Increase social interaction
  • Nurture a sense of personal freedom and independence
  • Encourage student success in the classroom overall

Who Needs an AAC System?

Often, AAC systems are provided for students with severe expressive communication disorders that impair speech, language, reading, and/or writing. This can refer to students at any age—even as young as pre-school.

ACC users typically fall into two categories based on the type of disability they exhibit:

  • Congenital disabilities (a disability the student is born with)
  • Acquired disabilities (a disability a student develops later on)

AAC Evaluations Conshohocken PA

AAC Users with Congenital Disabilities

Students with congenital disabilities were born with certain disabilities that can affect how they communicate with their teacher or peers in the classroom. These disabilities can include:

  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Intellectual disability
  • Developmental apraxia of speech
  • Genetic disorders

AAC users with Acquired Disabilities

A student has an acquired disability if they didn’t have the disability at birth, but developed it later on due to an accident, disease, or other event, like:

  • Cerebrovascular accidents
  • Traumatic or acquired brain injuries
  • Neurodegenerative diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), supranuclear palsy, primary progressive aphasia, and apraxia
  • Disability following surgeries like a glossectomy or laryngectomy
  • Temporary conditions like intubation for patients in critical care settings

If you think a student in your school may have a disability that requires the assistance of an AAC system, you can refer them to the speech-language pathologist (SLP) at your school. You can also contact PTS for a consultation with one of our highly qualified SLPs.

PTS Can Help You Support Your Students’ Communication Needs

If any of your students require an AAC system, our qualified speech-language pathologists can offer guidance on how to equip them with the system that will help them communicate and learn more effectively in the classroom.

We’ll point you toward the resources to schedule an evaluation for the student and act as partners throughout the process to ensure that the student is supported.

Our proprietary BudgetWatch™ software can also help you manage your special education budget. Our Clinical Directors can analyze the data in the BudgetWatch™ Program Summary Reports to determine where resources can be reallocated to create space in the budget for an AAC evaluation.

What is an AAC System?

After completing an AAC evaluation, a student can then receive a personalized AAC system. An Augmentative and Alternative Communication system is an integrated group of components that are used to enhance communication. They can include gestures, symbols and pictures, and various technologies. In general, there are two different types of AAC systems:

Unaided AAC systems don’t require an external tool but do require motor control. These include:

  • Gestures
  • Manual signs
  • Facial expressions
  • Vocalizations
  • Body language

Aided AAC systems do require external support through either electronic or non-electronic technologies. These types of systems can include:

  • Pictures and objects
  • Writing
  • Communication boards
  • Speech generating devices (SGD)
  • AAC software

Users will often use multiple modalities or a variety of systems of AAC in combination. This allows them to change their method of communication based on context. To this end, AAC systems should be flexible and adaptable.

Components of an AAC System

In order to create a complete system that’s adaptable and effective enough, AAC systems will often integrate four different components based on the student’s needs. These components are:

Visual-graphic symbols

Visual-graphic symbols are representations of thoughts and feelings like pictures, photographs, and line drawings.

Communication aids

These are tools and devices used for expressing ideas, emotions, needs, and wants. They can include natural aids like facial expressions, gestures, and sign language. They can also use external tools like symbol boards, picture notebooks, or speech-generating devices.

Message selection techniques

Message selection techniques refer to ways that students choose what they want to express. These can consist of simple or complex partner-assisted scanning systems, during which a student chooses from possibilities presented by a partner. They can also involve direct selection through touching or eye gazes.


Strategies don’t just facilitate communication, they help to enhance it. They use methods like topic setting, which gives AAC users a practical way to start and take turns in conversations. Word prediction is also a useful tool with which assistive devices anticipate what a communicator wants to say based on the first letter or letters contributed by the user.

Contact Us to Learn about AAC Evaluations

We know that you care about your students, so we’re here to support your efforts to support them. Contact PTS today and we can offer direction for how to get your students the AAC evaluations they need. In addition to providing this guidance, we supply schools with qualified speech-language pathologists who can support your students as a regular part of the related services team.

Contact us to learn more about how AAC can help your students!