Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

At Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare, many of our patients can benefit from evaluations for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices. Electronic and nonelectronic AAC devices can supplement or replace spoken language for people who have complex conditions that affect speech.

Our AAC team includes speech and language pathologists, occupational therapists, and assistive technology specialists. Working in teams with patients and their families, we assess abilities, recommend equipment, design custom mounts, and educate patients and families about communication strategies.

Why Choose Gillette?

  • Our team of experts has extensive experience working with children, teens and adults who have disabilities and complex conditions that began in childhood.
  • Our experts work in teams to provide comprehensive services.
  • We offer rehabilitation therapy services at convenient clinics throughout the Twin Cities, and assistive technology and rehabilitation engineering consultations in communities throughout greater Minnesota.
  • We believe that people who have disabilities deserve a lifetime of excellent health care—from birth through adulthood.


AAC refers to any form of communication that improves, supports or even replaces speech and writing. AAC includes electronic and nonelectronic communication aids.

The systems can be as simple as a set of pictures or as complicated as a device that generates speech. AAC also encompasses many strategies that patients and caregivers can use to facilitate better communication.

Candidates for AAC

We treat children, teens and adults with a variety of disabilities, complex conditions and serious injuries. Anyone who has trouble speaking or communicating might benefit from AAC evaluations and devices.

Some of our patients are young children who struggle with speech because of delays in expressive language development. Others have physical limitations or cognitive disabilities that make spoken language difficult or impossible.

We also serve adult patients who have speech or language difficulties resulting from disabilities that began during childhood.

Gillette patients who benefit from AAC often have the following conditions:

To learn more about the conditions we treat at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.

AAC Evaluations

An AAC evaluation involves gathering information about a patient’s needs and abilities, selecting an appropriate method of AAC to trial (test out), and modifying equipment to accommodate the chosen system.

During an AAC evaluation:

  • A speech and language pathologist will assess a patient’s speech, language and communication skills.
  • An occupational therapist will look at physical needs and skills as they relate to a patient’s ability to use various forms of AAC.
  • A certified seating practitioner will assist with equipment-related decisions, such as mounting options, seating adjustments and other wheelchair modifications.

We encourage parents and caregivers to participate in the evaluation. Teachers, school or community therapists, group home staff members and others also can provide useful information and insights.

Recommendations following an AAC evaluation depend on a patient’s needs, abilities and current AAC system (if applicable). After an evaluation, we might suggest:

  • Using an AAC system for the first time or replacing an existing AAC system
  • Trying various AAC systems during therapy sessions
  • Employing specific strategies for more effective communication
  • Attending speech and/or occupational therapy sessions to develop skills that might allow for future use of AAC devices

No matter the outcome of an AAC evaluation, addressing communication needs is an ongoing process as a patient’s skills change and technology advances.

Preparing for AAC Evaluations

Before undergoing an AAC evaluation at Gillette, a patient needs an order from a health care provider—whether that provider works at Gillette or is a provider in the community.

Once we receive an order, we contact patients and families to set up an evaluation. Whenever possible, families should fill out and return our AAC questionnaire before their visit.

When an evaluation indicates that an AAC device is a good fit for a patient, we can provide equipment to try and arrange for longer-term trials.

For more resources about preparing for your visit to Gillette, visit Patient Preparation and Support.

Collaborative Services

Choosing an appropriate AAC system involves collaboration among patients, families and experts in various Gillette areas.

The disciplines most often involved in AAC at Gillette include:

To learn more about the services we provide at Gillette, search Conditions and Care.

Greater Minnesota Consultations

For people living in greater Minnesota, rehabilitation engineers can provide AAC consultations. Those appointments involve collaboration among a Gillette rehabilitation engineer and community providers, including therapists, teachers, special education experts and equipment vendors.

We provide:

  • Demonstrations of a wide variety of AAC equipment options
  • Consultations about AAC devices and strategies
  • Expertise regarding switches and device-mounting options
  • Information about loan services and funding resources

Our greater Minnesota consultations are available through grant funding at no charge to families. Consultations take place at Gillette outreach sites.

Locations of Service

Burnsville Clinic
Burnsville Clinic

952-223-3400 or 866-881-7386 (toll free)

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Maple Grove Clinic
Maple Grove Clinic

763-496-6000 or 888-218-0642 (toll free)

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Minnetonka Clinic
Minnetonka Clinic

952-936-0977 or 800-277-1250 (toll free)

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St. Paul Campus (Hospital and Clinic)
St. Paul Campus (Hospital and Clinic)

651-291-2848 or 800-719-4040 (toll-free)

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Gillette Lifetime Specialty Healthcare Clinic (for Older Teens and Adults)
Gillette Lifetime Specialty Healthcare Clinic (for Older Teens and Adults)


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Services vary by location. For all of our locations, visit Directions and Locations.

Why Gillette?

Because all children deserve a lifetime of amazing health care.

Why Gillette »