Unaided Augmentative and Alternative Communication Systems


Hands undertaking sign languageUnaided augmentative and alternative communication systems includes various forms of communication that are used alongside or instead of spoken language and which do not require an external tool.


There is evidence that facilitated communication is not effective in supporting autistic people to communicate more effectively. Determining the benefits of the other forms of unaided augmentative and alternative communication is not currently possible. We must wait for further research of sufficiently high quality to be completed

Risks and Safety

No risks are known for most forms of unaided AAC. However, some significant risks exist for facilitated communication, including the danger of unsubstantiated claims of sexual abuse against family members of the autistic person.

Specific Types of Unaided AAC Sytems

Facilitated Communication

Facilitated communication (also known as supported typing) is a form of alternative and augmentative communication in which someone physically supports a disabled person and helps them to point at pictures or words.

Facilitated communication is based on the idea that many of the difficulties faced by disabled people are due to movement difficulties rather than social or communication difficulties. 

The communication partner (usually called a facilitator) physically supports the disabled person so that they can point to pictures, symbols, letters and words using a computer keyboard, letter books or picture books. By doing this, the disabled person can demonstrate what they want to communicate. 

Some disabled people who use facilitated communication often use it as part of a total communication approach. For example, they may use it in combination with other methods of communication such as speech or sign language

More Information

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Sign Language

Sign languages are based on the idea that sight is a useful tool for some people to communicate and receive information. Sign languages therefore use hand shape, position, and movement; body movements; gestures; facial expressions; and other visual cues to form words.

There are many different sign languages including American Sign Language, British Sign Language and Makaton. Each of these languages is completely separate from spoken English. Each contains all the fundamental features a language needs to function on its own. For example, each has its own rules for grammar, punctuation, and sentence order.

Some sign languages (such as Sign Supported English) take the signs from another language (such as British Sign Language) and use them in the order that the words would be spoken in the spoken language (English).

Sign language is sometimes used, alone or alongside spoken word, to teach autistic people to communicate.

More Information

Please see Publications on Sign Language

Total Communication Training

An approach that makes use of a number of modes of communication such as signed, oral, auditory, written and visual aids, depending on the particular needs and abilities of the individual

More Information

Please see Publications on Total Communication Training

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26 May 2022