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autism spectrum disorder, autism, ASD, augmentative and alternative communication, augmentative communication, assistive technology, verbal communication, speech development, verbal language development


This systematic review researched the efficacy of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) in increasing oral communication in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). It may be used to inform best practice when working with children with ASD. The search strategy reviewed medical, social science, and communication databases. Inclusionary criteria consisted of peer-reviewed, quantitative research published after 2007 regarding children with ASD under age 18. The included studies used AAC interventions and measured spoken language outcomes. After conducting an initial database search with these criteria, a manual search was performed using references from the found articles. Results varied across studies. Although the trend demonstrates increases in verbal language with AAC intervention, few studies show statistically significant outcomes. The studies indicate that additional factors, such as verbal communication at baseline, may affect outcomes. AAC use did not decrease verbal language. Limitations included few randomized control trial designs, few study replications, and varied outcome measures. Based on the studies analyzed, implementation of AAC may increase the number of communicative acts, but may not reliably increase verbal language. Further research is needed to understand the most effective implementation of AAC intervention to increase verbal language. Higher quality research in the form of randomized control trials, and the replication of studies to confirm results is necessary to inform evidence-based practice. The findings are consistent with those of previous systematic reviews and meta analyses. Future considerations should include type of AAC, communicative act being measured, longitudinal studies, and increased use of formal measures.


Nancy Gauvin, EdD, CCC-SLP

Examining the Effects of AAC Intervention on Oral Language in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: A Systematic Review