Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders


Date of this Version



Published in Augmentative and Alternative Communication 19:4 (December 2003), pp. 254–272; doi: 10.1080/07434610310001598242


Copyright © 2003 Taylor & Francis Ltd. Used by permission.


Children and adults with developmental delays have benefited from the use of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems to develop language skills necessary for more generative and functional communication. Beginning communicators however, have historically been considered too young or too pre-linguistic and therefore have not been introduced to AAC systems until behaviors, thought to be prerequisites, have been noted. Recent research and theories about early communication development have challenged this traditional practice and broadened the scope of what is considered to be AAC. Practitioners and parents unfamiliar with early AAC options may not recognize possible applications of communication strategies used with typically developing children and older persons with developmental disabilities. AAC is applicable at all ages for learning communication roles and behaviors as well as for functional communication for persons who do not yet demonstrate clear referential symbol use. This article addresses nine questions that are frequently asked about early introduction of AAC systems to children under 3 years of age. Rationales and strategies are provided that can assist early interventionists and parents in considering AAC options for children at risk for being unintelligible or non-speaking.