One of the most frequent referrals we receive for a speech-language assessment is for the two-year-old child who “does not talk.” The parent interview usually reveals that both the parents and the toddler are at their whit’s end, experiencing daily frustrations due to communication breakdown. Luckily, there’s usually a pretty easy way to alleviate this problem; an augmentative means of communication (AAC).

What is an augmentative means of communication?

AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) is a simple introduction of an additional form of communication to help your child effectively communicate his/her wants and needs, while learning to verbally communicate. The simplest forms of AAC are picture communication systems and Baby Sign Language.

How do I implement an augmentative means of communication?

To introduce picture communication, snap photos of your child’s favorite people and things, then laminate the pictures and place them on the fridge with magnet tape or in a small photo album/notebook. This way, your child can access them easily, and show you exactly what he/she wants. When your child points to, or hands you the picture, reinforce these communicative intents verbally (for example, “Oh, I want milk”), and naturally, by giving the child a cup of milk. If you have an iPhone or iPad, you can create picture communication boards with verbal recordings for your child by using free applications, such as Sounding Board, Yes/No HD, or Choice Maker.

Baby Sign Language can be introduced as early as four months of age, with babies using basic signs to signal that they are hungry (“eat”), want “more,” and/or are “all done,” as early as six months of age. Introducing baby sign language has been shown in multiple research studies to increase the rate of verbal development and improve a child’s cognitive and emotional development.

Providing your toddler with a way to communicate with you when verbal language has not yet developed has been shown to jump start intellectual, language, and motor development, as well as provide some very important social-emotional benefits, including diminished frustration and aggressive behaviors, a stronger parent/child bond, and improved self confidence and trust through improved communication.

*Arnold Palmer Medical Center is the only facility in Central Florida to offer a multidisciplinary Augmentative and Alternative Communication assessment by an assistive technology team.

For more information on using augmentative and alternative communication, please feel free to contact the speech-language pathology team at Arnold Palmer Medical Center by calling 407.237.6387.

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Discuss: Prevent those “terrible twos” by easing communication frustrations


  1. Julie Gaby says:
    September 26, 2013 at 7:11 am

    Great information, Faye!

    • Faye says:
      September 26, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Thank you, Julie! :)
      That’s wonderful, Jen! Thank you for sharing your experience with introducing basic sign with your toddler. :)

  2. Jen says:
    September 26, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    We taught our daughter some sign language and can attest to the amazing ways that it helps ease the frustrations of communication. She is 18 months right now, and can verbally communicate some things and uses sign language for other things that she has not yet learned to say. This skill has prevented many melt downs!

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