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The History of AAC Communication

What is AAC?

According to ASHA (American Speech and Hearing Association), “Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is an area of clinical practice that addresses the needs of individuals with significant and complex communication disorders characterized by impairments in speech-language production and/or comprehension, including spoken and written modes of communication. AAC uses a variety of techniques and tools, including picture communication boards, line drawings, speech-generating devices (SGDs), tangible objects, manual signs, gestures, and finger spelling, to help the individual express thoughts, wants and needs, feelings, and ideas. AAC is augmentative when used to supplement existing speech, and alternative when used in place of speech that is absent or not functional. AAC may be temporary, as when used by patients postoperatively in intensive care, or permanent, as when used by an individual who will require the use of some form of AAC throughout his or her lifetime.”

There has been incredible advancements since I began in the field of AAC in 1999. In 1999, there were speech generating devices available as well as Boardmaker, but color printers were still rare and those crayons and markers came in handy to color in communication boards! Now, coloring in symbols seems archaic compared to the amazing technology available today with the invention of the iPad and other tablets. The advancement in computers has also brought significant changes in the field with easier access to eye gaze and other access methods.

Many people that I meet that are not speech language pathologists and/or in the field of AAC, think the development of AAC began with iPads and other tablets but this can not be further from the truth! In this article, I am going to give you a brief overview of the history with excellent links to more information and articles on the topic.

How did AAC develop and when?

According to Gregg C. Vanderheiden, PhD (2002), “In plotting the course of early augmentative communication, it is important to follow three different threads of development. One is the development of early electromechanical communication and writing systems. The second is research on ordinary (without disability) child language development, and the third is communication and language boards. These three threads developed largely independently until the 60s and 70s, when they merged to form what we now know as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Computer access then evolved out of the interface portion of this work, particularly the thread dealing with human machine interface (with its roots in the conversation and writing machines).”

What was the first AAC device?

According to Gregg C. Vanderheiden, PhD (2002), “Perhaps the earliest electric communication device was the POSM (Patient Operated Selector Mechanism), a sip-and-puff typewriter controller first prototyped by Reg Maling in 1960 (one of several he eventually created) Reg was a volunteer visitor at Stoke Manderville hospital (for paralyzed people) and noticed that they had only a bell to communicate with. This inspired him to develop the very first POSM for them. A Communications System for the Handicapped (Comhandi) was developed in 1964, consisting of a scanning teletypewriter controller with an illuminated display.”


Who is eligible for AAC?

When I teach my graduate class, I always review the “zero reject model”, which means that no one is ever rejected for communication based on their cognitive and/or physical disabilities. Anyone with complex communication needs are eligible for AAC. In my career as a speech language pathologist in the field of AAC, I have evaluated and trained both children and adults with Congenital disorders (disorders that children are born with such as Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome), Acquired Disorders (e.g. disorders that are acquired after birth such as Muscular Dystrophy, Traumatic Brain Injury), Degenerative Disorders (e.g. such as Parkinsons, Alzheimers, etc.), and Temporary Conditions (e.g. such a someone in the hospital who can’t temporarily communicate).


Do you want to learn more about AAC? Learn more about it here.


Mahmarian, David. “A History of Autism and AAC.” Medium, Medium, 4 Feb. 2016,


“A Journey through Early Augmentative Communication and Computer Access.” by Gregg C. Vanderheiden, PhD. Accessed August 23rd, 2019.

Bilingual AAC Apps and Bluebee Pal

Bilingual AAC Apps


Proloquo2Go is a communication app that is used by individuals who have a limited ability to use speech for communication and need an augmentative and/or alternative way to communicate. I have used this communication app with all ages from young children to adults with complex communication needs.

The Proloquo2Go communication app offers a variety of page sets for individuals with varying abilities and is easily customized for each user. I find that the most useful page sets are the core vocabulary page sets, which give individuals the ability to communicate most effectively and with a more robust vocabulary page set. Additionally, it would be helpful to have Proloquo2go on two separate iPads (one for the child if they are using that as their form of communication and the other iPad for the therapist who is using Proloquo2go for modeling purposes) with the Bluebee Pal. 

To learn more about how to facilitate communication with this app and Bluebee Pal, click here.

I have used Proloquo2Go for many years and have found its bilingual features intuitive and there is ease in switching back and forth between languages. Languages included in this app are Spanish, French, and Dutch. This app also comes with specific bilingual voices as well, so the speech sounds natural and fluent.  To learn more about it’s bilingual features in both Proloquo2Go and Proloquo4Text, click here.

When using a bilingual app and Bluebee Pal, it affords the user the opportunity for Bluebee to speak multiple languages within a session. For bilingual speech language pathologist, the Bluebee Pal can be a great tool within a therapy session as well as the classroom for teachers with bilingual students. For children who are learning English, a teacher can set up a tablet with Bluebee Pal on one language (e.g. Spanish) and have the children respond in a different language on their talker (e.g. English). It can be an excellent tool with endless ideas!

LAMP Words for Life

LAMP Words For Life™ is a comprehensive augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) language app that combines the PRC Unity® language system with Language Acquisition through Motor Planning (LAMP™) principles and strategies. LAMP™ provides a consistent motor pattern for words with an efficient way to develop communication skills allowing for unlimited communication opportunities with others. The app is available with three different vocabulary pages sets; LAMP 84 One Hit, LAMP 84 Transition and LAMP 84 Full.

LAMP Words For Life™ combines 50 years of PRC experience with the Language Acquisition through Motor Planning approach. The app is appropriate for emerging, context dependent and advanced communicators. It is a symbol based app that is appropriate for individuals of all literacy levels. This language system is also based on many years of research that has helped shape the system that it is today. For more information on LAMP Words For Life™ app, click here. For additional resources, lesson plans and much more, check out AAC Language Lab here. To learn more about this app and how to use with Bluebee Pal with a featured activity, click here.

LAMP Words for Life has a unique page set titled LAMP WFL – Spanish/English 1 Hit and LAMP WFL – Spanish/English Full. These page set are truly bilingual and can give the user the ability to switch back and forth with ease. This app also comes with specific bilingual voices as well so the speech sounds natural and fluent. To learn more about this system and it’s bilingual features, click here.

Are you looking additional therapy apps to help teacher a child a new language?

Check out this article here.


Learning Syntax and Grammar with Bluebee Pal

How does Grammar and Syntax affect communication?

What is grammar vs syntax? To learn more about this, click here. 

Looking for more information about grammar and syntax? Check out this resource by Anne Rowley

Many students with speech and language delays and disabilities have difficulty learning syntax and grammar. How can we help children learn to use better grammar and syntax in conversation? Incorrect syntax and grammar can affect overall communication if a message is misunderstood. This can lead to frustration and interacting with others that are less familiar. It also comes out in writing, which can affect academics. 


There are many apps available that help target grammar and syntax. Below I am going to give a brief description of each with a link to the full review with tips on how to use Bluebee Pal.


The first question for many parents is, “What is typical?” To learn more about the Brown’s Stages of Syntactic and Morphological Development click here.


Recommended Apps for Grammar and Syntax

 Bluebee Pals are a welcoming friend encouraging learning and communication. Bluebee Pal can also be an ideal model to model correct syntax and grammar with specific apps. 



Syntax City

Syntax City is a state-of-the-art application designed by Barbara Fernandes, M.S; CCC SLP, that targets a variety of grammatical elements in fun and engaging way for varying ages and abilities. The theme sets the tone for children visiting a variety of places within the city. Each location within the city targets a different set of goals. Each location within the city targets a different set of goals: See below for the locations and goals that are being targeted: 
-Gym: Do/Does
-Beach: Third person singular agreement
-Bakery: Was/Were
-Ski Resort: He/ She
-Farm: Past tense verb agreement
-Grocery: Has/Have
-Park: Is/Are
-Zoo: Regular and Irregular Plurals

To find out more information about this app and download, click here.

Grammar Apps by Super Duper

Super Duper Publications has a variety of apps that target grammar and syntax. Which apps? Here are some to download! Fun Decks such as I and Me, Adverbs, Understanding Double Negatives App, My Mine and Me are just to name a few. For a full list of apps to download that target grammar, click here. 

Using Fun Decks with Bluebee Pal can be endless fun with these apps! For example, when you start the Super Duper Plurals app, Bluebee Pal will say “Max has many colorful _____” The child can listen to the sentence and then choose “balloon” or “balloons”. This app priced at $3.99 gives the option of tracking data, adding additional players. 


Create Your Own Sentences with Pictello

What better way to practice what you learned than to create your own social stories and sentences with Pictello! Create a social story with Pictello and make Bluebee Pal the reader of the story! Pictello is a versatile app that can be used to create stories with using photos, short video clips and text. This app has the ability to use both synthesized and digitized speech. The app also gives you the ability to share easily with others is user friendly to set up. Pictello also has the option to use many different language and accents which can be an excellent feature for many individuals.To learn more about this app and using it with Bluebee Pal, click here.


Bluebee Pals  Speech Language Tools 


















Touch and Learn Emotions with Bluebee Pal

Teach your child emotions!

Do you want to help teach your child emotions and nonverbal communication? Touch and Learn Emotions App is a wonderful app for just $1.99 that can help your child interpret facial expressions and learn emotions. The app user friendly and easy to customize for any child. Features include being able to turn individual concepts on and off so you can work on introducing new emotions one at a time. It’s appropriate for a variety of ages from younger to older children. The app also gives the user the ability to add new concepts such as actions in one click.

The app includes 100 photos and when wrong answers are chosen, the gameplay is not interfered. It’s simple in nature and stays with the same template which is ideal for motor planning. 

Be creative with this app! In the setting section, you have the ability to turn the sound on/off, label on/off, or use animated transitions. There is an option to “select concepts to play” so that specific emotions can be targeted one at a time. Within the settings, you can customize pictures and concepts. This app is very versatile and both parent and child friendly.

How to Use with Bluebee Pal

  1. Connect Bluebee Pal with your preferred device.
  2. Once connected, Bluebee Pal can help your child learn emotions by giving the directive by saying the emotion (e.g. sad). After you choose the correct picture, Bluebee will give your child positive feedback such as “Good work!”
  3. When the wrong item is selected, a short sound will activate and the page will not move until the correct picture is chosen.
  4. Once customized, Bluebee can help your child target other concepts such as actions. Act out emotions with Bluebee such as raising his arms and jumping for “excited” and laying Bluebee Pal down for “tired”. 

Social and Emotional Learning with Bluebee Pal

What is Social Emotional Learning?

According to The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) , “Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.” Social and Emotional Learning can take place in both the home and classroom. With empathy and creating positive relationships with others. we can be happier and meet goals of social closeness. The goal of social closeness is so critical for children with complex communication needs. To learn more about Social Emotional Learning, check out this video below.

I love this concept of Social and Emotional Learning because it challenges parents, teachers and students to think outside the box. How can we take this concept and apply it to the Bluebee Pal? How can we teach children with more complex cognitive abilities the concept of feelings and emotions? This can be a tricky concept but very attainable. In my experience, I have learned to meet goals of social and emotional learning through multimedia strategies. I used materials such as books, cards, etc but also role play and use video modeling, which I find extremely helpful. Below I will list some helpful apps to start with how integrate our friend, Bluebee Pal!


Create a social story with Pictello and make Bluebee Pal the reader of the story! Pictello is a versatile app that can be used to create stories with using photos, short video clips and text. This app has the ability to use both synthesized and digitized speech. The app also gives you the ability to share easily with others is user friendly to set up. Pictello also has the option to use many different language and accents which can be an excellent feature for many individuals. When creating a story, choose between Wizard or Expert depending on how much support you need. Name your story and then choose your voice, transition feature and filling out the “About Me” section.To learn more about this app, click here.

Let’s Be Social Pro

This app includes 40 written lessons and 5 video lessons developed by ASHA certified SLP’s. This app gives you ability to create customized lessons using your own pictures and text, Let’s be Social a therapeutic tool designed to help special needs professionals and parents teach social skills to those with delays in pragmatics. In order to meet social emotional learning, understanding social communication is key! To learn more about this app, click here.

Breathe Think Do with Sesame

This app helps teach skills such as problem solving, self control, planning and task persistence.This bilingual (English and Spanish), research-based app helps your child learn Sesame’s “Breathe, Think, Do” strategy for problem-solving. With app, there are challenging situations that can make a child frustrating. The app helps your child to make the monster breathe so that he can be calmer. Each time time the monster breathes, then you have to create a plan to help him. This free app helps teach vocabulary, strategies and problem solving. To learn how to use it with Bluebee Pal, click here.

Touch and Learn Emotions

Touch and Learn is an app that introduces new concepts related to feelings in a fun and exciting new way. This app focused on helping kids interpret body language and understand emotions. When the app starts up, the child has to answer the question, “Who is __(sad, tired, happy etc.?” The pictures included in this app are high quality and perfect to use for this task. This app can also be used to elicit conversation about facial expressions and other nonverbal communication. To learn how to use this app with Bluebee Pal, click here.

Let’s Use Language Pro

Written by ASHA-Certified SLPs, Let’s Use Language uses stories to teach the language concepts of: Vocabulary, Sequencing, Categories and Opposites.This app includes 40 lessons and provides a context for learning language. The app is well organized and gives users the ability to create their own skill set or edit the current lesson plan menu.To learn more about this app and how to use it with Bluebee Pal, click here.


Let’s Use Language Pro with Bluebee Pal

Let’s Use Language Pro

Let’s Use Language Pro is written by ASHA-Certified SLPs. This app uses stories to teach the language concepts of: Vocabulary, Sequencing, Categories and Opposites.This app includes 40 lessons and provides a context for learning language. The app is well organized and gives users the ability to create their own skill set or edit the current lesson plan menu. This app relates well to the concept of Social and Emotional Learning with it’s embedded appropriate social behaviors in each story.

When you open the app, you have a choice of Vocabulary, Sequencing, Categories and Opposites. When you open the vocabulary section, you have a choice of various stories to choose from. These include; Visiting the Farm, Ella and Carly’s Day at the Beach, Playing Outside, Eating Lunch at School, A Day at the Zoo, Planting Flowers, Madison Gets Ready for Bed, Emma Goes to a Birthday Party, The Life Cycle of a Caterpillar and Tom’s Soccer Game. Once you open up the story, you can have the story read to you and then answer the questions related to the story. This is an excellent activity that works on reading comprehension (if you read it yourself), auditory comprehension (have the book read to you), answering “wh” questions and learning new vocabulary. 

In the sequencing section, there are 10 stories to choose from. Once a story is selected, you have the option to either read it yourself or have it read to you. Then there is a sequencing activity. This is an excellent opportunity to work on sequencing, recalling information and time concepts. The pages are organized well, which makes the app easy to use and child friendly. 

The categories sections is set up similarly to the sequencing and vocabulary section but the questions target categories. The opposites also includes 10 different stories with questions targeting opposites. I really love this app because it easy to navigate and consistent in the layout, which is so important for both a child and parent. This is also helpful for a therapist who is using multiple apps and materials.

How to use Learning Language Pro with Bluebee Pal:

  1. Connect Bluebee Pal with your preferred device via bluetooth.
  2. Once connected, let the fun begin! Choose a story such as Eating Lunch at School and Bluebee will read the story to your child.
  3. Once the story is complete, Bluebee can ask the questions. Try this for each of the sections. Bluebee loves to help children learn language concepts and work on social language!

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