Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)


Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) refers to communication methods outside of verbal speech, which people with speech, language and/or voice disorders may use to communicate. AAC can include the use of signs or gestures; communication books or boards; and/or voice-output speech-generating devices.

Speech-language pathologists work with adults and children with communication disabilities to determine the best AAC strategies that will help them to meet their activity and participation goals.

Children and adults with the following may benefit from an AAC evaluation:

The AAC clinic at Marianjoy uses a team-based approach to determine the most appropriate Augmentative and Alternative Communication options for clients. AAC clinic services through MARTI include:

The Northwestern Medicine Aphasia Center at Marianjoy is designed for anyone who is experiencing aphasia and would like to improve his or her communication skills. Led by a speech-language pathologist with expertise in language disorders, small group sessions provide a comfortable and supportive environment for participants to practice their skills through real-life activities.

Independent Living Center

The state-of-the-art Independent Living Center integrates assistive technology into a simulated home-like environment. Clinical staff customize treatment to help patients practice with the most appropriate high- and low-tech options. This allows patients to gain hands-on experience and learn assistive options to maximize independence and accessibility at home.


The fully accessible kitchen offers front-facing controls and a drawer-style microwave, which provide access from a wheelchair. Height-adjustable,pull-out cabinets allow easy access for individuals with limited mobility or reach. Countertops can be adjusted to a variety of heights to provide a comfortable work surface from a standing or seated position.

Dining Room

Therapists work with individuals to practice daily activities, such as setting the table while navigating around furniture; crossing various flooring surfaces; and transporting items between rooms. A sliding glass door off the dining room area offers access to a simulated outdoor patio.

Three Differently Configured Bathrooms

Accessible by way of a ceiling track system, a high-tech bathroom includes a walk-in tub with seat and a roll-in shower. Alternative bathrooms replicate traditional layouts and allow for experimentation with a variety of adaptive equipment. Watch a video on bathroom configurations.


The Sleep Number® bed allows patients to raise or lower the head of the bed with voice activation. This technology improves independence with getting in or out of bed, as well as completing self-care activities while in bed. Individuals with mobility restrictions may practice using the ceiling track to move from the bed into the accessible bathroom.

Living Room

Controls can be used to adjust the lighting or change the television channel. A motorized lift chair assists individuals to a standing position for more independent mobility.

Laundry Room

Front-loading machines allow access to laundry facilities from a seated position. Selecting accessible appliances makes it easier to complete daily activities independently.

Home Office

Fully adaptable, height-adjustable desk provides computer access. Options for low-vision include lighting options and magnifiers. Therapists can work with patients on computer tasks while adjusting workspace height or lighting levels to maximize independence. Additionally, therapists can also teach patients already using eye-gaze technology for speech production how to interface this technology for access to computers, smart phones and other electronic home/office equipment the patient may wish to use.

Learn more about eye-gaze technology.