5 Myths Demystified for AAC and SGD

Sometimes Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) and Speech Generating Devices (SGDs) are held back from children even though communication is essential if one is to be able to maximize function and learning within a society.  Speech being the accepted primary means of communication, when children have impediments to speech and language that does not mean that they can not learn. It just means that we have to provide appropriate bridges that facilitate language acquisition and immediate means to communicating needs and wants. Without these bridges to communication meltdowns, tantrums, and other acting out behaviors are frequently used to express the constant frustration of not having needs met, feeling misunderstood, and invisible.

Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) and Speech Generating Devices (SGDs) are potent tools indeed in the arsenal of special education. They represent a lifeline for many individuals who struggle to communicate using natural speech. But despite the significant strides that have been made in AAC/SGD technology and research, there still exist several myths that can deter parents and educators from embracing these devices.

In this blog, we will uncover the truth about five of these myths, referencing the National Special Education Advocacy Institute (NSEAI) as an authoritative source. The NSEAI is a leading organization dedicated to training advocates in special education law, advocacy techniques, and providing knowledge about the complexities of special education.

Myth 1: AAC/SGDs Will Hinder Natural Speech and Language Development

A common misconception is that introducing AAC/SGDs to an individual will reduce their motivation to improve natural speech and delay language development, including the development of social communication skills.

Fact: Contrary to this belief, research has shown that AAC/SGD use leads to increases in receptive vocabulary. AAC/SGDs can decrease the frequency of behaviors related to frustration or communication breakdowns, improving natural speech when therapy focuses simultaneously on natural speech development.

Myth 2: AAC/SGDs Should Only be Introduced After Natural Speech is Ruled Out

Some people believe that AAC/SGDs should be introduced only after the student’s ability to use natural speech has been completely ruled out.

Fact: This is a flawed approach. Early implementation of AAC/SGDs aids in the development of natural speech and language. The use of AAC/SGDs has been shown to increase vocabulary and development of grammar in children ages 3 years and younger.

Myth 3: Young Children are Not Ready for AAC/SGDs

Another myth is that young children in early intervention are not ready for AAC/SGDs and will not require AAC/SGDs until they reach school age.

Fact: On the contrary, intervention for minimally verbal school-age children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) showed that the use of an AAC/SGD increased spontaneous output and use of novel utterances. Early introduction of AAC/SGDs can set a strong foundation for communication development.

Myth 4: A Student Must Understand Cause and Effect Before Using AAC/SGD

Some believe that a student must have the prerequisite skill of understanding cause and effect before an AAC/SGD should be considered.

Fact: This is a misconception. The ability to measure pre-communicative cognitive ability may be invalid for some students. Low IQs do not preclude communication. In fact, the development of language skills can lead to improved functional and social communication skills and promote cognitive development with gains in IQs.

Myth 5: A Student Must Show Communicative Intent Before Using AAC/SGD

The last myth we are tackling today is the belief that a student must show communicative intent before AAC/SGD should be considered. Thus, individuals with cognitive deficits are not able to learn to use AAC/SGDs.

Fact: This is a misunderstanding. AAC/SGDs do not affect a student’s motivation to use natural speech. They actually help develop a foundation for literacy development.

Now that we've dispelled these myths, it's important to understand the role of speech and language pathologists in relation to AAC/SGD. In the next blog, we'll delve into their responsibilities and the impact of their work.

[Continue Reading in next blog]


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Marie Lewis is an author, consultant, and national speaker on best practices in education advocacy. She is a parent of 3 children and a Disability Case Manager, Board Certified Education Advocate, and Behavior Specialist Consultant. She has assisted in the development of thousands of IEPs nationally and consults on developing appropriately individualized IEPs that are outcome-based vs legally sufficient. She brings a great depth of expertise, practical experience, and compassion to her work as well as expert insight, vision, and systemic thinking. She is passionate and funny and she always inspires and informs.


MJ Gore has an MEd in counseling and a degree in elementary education and natural sciences. She worked as a life-skills and learning support teacher She has been honored with the Presidential Volunteer Service Award. She is the Director and on the faculty at the National Special Education Advocacy Institute. Her passion is social justice, especially in the area of education. She is a Board Certified Education Advocate who teaches professional advocates, educators, and clinicians the best practices in education advocacy.]

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