Augmentative and Alternative Communication, or AAC is anything other than oral speech used to communicate wants, needs, ect. It is primarily used by those individuals with communication disorders to replace speaking altogether or simply to supplement their speech. There are two main types of AAC: aided and unaided. Aided AAC includes tools and equipment other than the body that are used to communicate. These can be as sophisticated as an electronic device or as simple as a pen and paper. They can use pictures, words, or symbols in order to covey the message the user wishes to communicate. Unaided AAC is what the individual can communicate using only their own body. This includes gestures, facial expressions, and sign language.
There are many types of aided AAC devices, but some of the most popular are communication boards (sets of words, pictures, ect. that the individual can manipulate), PODD communication books (books in which the individual can organize words or letters to communicate), and speech generating devices (a machine speaks out loud when a button is pressed). In schools, these devices can be used in classroom settings to help children with major speech impediments communicate with their classmates, or used in a special education classroom for those students with severe special needs learn and communicate with the SPED teachers.
A few different controversies over using AAC in schools is whether the school systems should be required to pay for the devices for each student during the school year, and whether the students should be allowed to take the devices home with them at night and during the weekend.