AAC and young children with disabilities - review (summary)

young children

What was the aim of the study? This study reviewed the literature on AAC for infants and toddlers with developmental disabilities under the age of three years.

Why was the paper written? The learning experiences of children's first three years of life can influence later brain development, but these experiences may be lessened if caregivers cannot recognize children's communicative behaviours. Early access to AAC can benefit children's early intentional communication, but most literature on AAC relates to older age groups.

What did the authors do? The authors searched electronic databases, journals and reference lists for studies that addressed AAC in children with developmental disabilities aged three years and younger. For each study they included in their review, the authors determined how conclusive the evidence was about its finding. In other words, the authors evaluated the quality of the evidence in each study they reviewed. They included 12 studies in their review and determined that seven of them had conclusive, or high-quality, reliable results.

The 12 studies included in this review involved 190 children aged 8 to 36 months. The studies tested both aided and unaided forms of AAC, targeted a variety of skills and included designs that measured outcomes of individual children and groups.

What did they find? This review found evidence to support the use of AAC with children aged 36 months and younger. In particular:

  • AAC improved communication for 97% of reported participants.
  • Children's communication partners could learn to increase successful communication.
  • Participating children successfully learned to use a variety of AAC systems.
  • Children with various different developmental disabilities used AAC to improve communication.

None of the studies advocated an age requirement for the introduction of AAC, but younger children tended to be introduced to unaided rather than aided AAC systems. The seven conclusive studies of the highest quality showed that AAC of many different types is effective for young children.

Cautions: Evidence from five of the 12 studies was inconclusive.

Conclusions: It is important that clinicians and caregivers are willing to try a range of different AAC systems with young children. If a child's communication is difficult to interpret, there is no reason to withhold an aided communication system such as a VOCA or pictures due to young age.

Things you may want to look into:



assessing AAC preferences developmental disabilities - review

Added to site August 2013