AAC for Autism: Using Apps for Nonverbal Communication to Help Autistic Adults Communicate Better


Autism Awareness graphic

April is Autism Awareness month, so that makes this the perfect time to reflect on the question of how to support the communication needs of people on the autism spectrum.

In this post, I’ll explore how AAC apps such as APP2Speak can benefit those on the spectrum who struggle with communication challenges.

Common Signs of Autism in Adults

First, let’s talk about autism in adults. While most people are diagnosed as being on the spectrum while they’re children, many young adults and adults, especially those who are high functioning, are now being diagnosed for the first time. In fact, this is happening much more frequently today than ever before due to increased public awareness.

So, what exactly are some of the common signs?

Autism is most commonly characterized by difficulties in three main areas:

  • Social interactions
  • Verbal and nonverbal communication
  • Repetitive or ritualistic behaviors

In some autistic adults, their behavior resembles that of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Others may have symptoms like impaired spoken language. In fact, one of the major challenges in diagnosing someone with ASD is that it can look very different from one individual to the next.

But regardless of how the disorder manifests itself or the severity of any individual case, ASD symptoms can pose serious challenges in everyday life.

AAC for Adults with Autism

Obviously, I’m most interested in the communication challenges that some people with autism struggle with, and that’s where augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps can play a role.

AAC is a vital tool for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who have difficulty with verbal communication. Many autistic adults struggle with speaking, which can lead to isolation and frustration. However, AAC technology, particularly apps for nonverbal communication, can help bridge the communication gap and improve the quality of life for people with ASD.

There are many types of AAC available, ranging from simple picture boards to complex speech-generating devices. Some AAC tools are low-tech and require no special equipment, while others are high-tech and require specialized software and hardware. AAC apps for nonverbal communication are becoming increasingly popular, as they are more portable and affordable than traditional AAC devices.

One example of an effective AAC app for autistic adults is, of course, APP2Speak. Our app allows users to communicate by selecting photos or words on a customizable screen. It also includes a text-to-speech feature, which can vocalize the user’s selections. APP2Speak is easy to use and can be personalized to fit the user’s specific needs and preferences.

When looking for the best AAC apps, it’s important to consider the individual’s unique communication needs and abilities. Some apps may be more suited for children or individuals with specific types of communication difficulties. However, with the right app and support, AAC can be an invaluable tool for improving communication and social interactions for individuals with ASD.

Features of Effective AAC Apps

Effective AAC apps have certain features that make them useful for autistic adults. These features include customizable vocabulary, voice output, and visual supports.

  • Customizable vocabulary allows users to add words and phrases that are specific to their needs and wants.
  • Voice output allows users to hear the words and phrases they’ve selected.
  • Visual supports, such as photos, can help users to understand the meaning of words and phrases.

APP2Speak Fits the Bill

APP2Speak is an excellent example of an effective AAC app for people who have lost their ability to speak for any of a variety of reasons (disease, traumatic brain injury, stroke, or surgery, for example).

We designed the app to help nonverbal individuals (whatever the cause) or people who struggle to communicate to express their needs and wants. It has a customizable vocabulary, voice output, and visual supports. APP2Speak also has a feature that allows users to create their own categories and subcategories, making it easy to find the words and phrases they need.

This ability to customize the app in various ways is a powerful feature and can make a huge difference in the life of someone with ASD. For example, consider Josh’s story.

Josh is on the autism spectrum and has difficulty communicating. He is graduating from high school and currently uses a speech generating device. It’s big and bulky and not convenient for him to use at home and certainly won’t be convenient for him to use at the new job he has lined up upon graduation.

Speaking apps, on the other hand, are convenient, mobile, easily downloadable to the mobile devices people already own, and are much less expensive compared to speech generating devices.

Using an app like APP2Speak would mean that Josh can take an iPad or even just his phone to work with him for using the app. And the fact that the app is customizable would allow Josh to take pictures of his work environment to add to the app and would allow him to customize his communication needs to fit his job. This would make Josh’s transition into his new job so much easier.

Choosing the Best AAC Apps

When looking for the best AAC apps for nonverbal communication, there are several factors to consider. It is important to choose an app that is easy to use, customizable, and has a variety of communication options. Here are some factors to consider when choosing the best AAC app:

Factors to Consider

  • User interface: Look for an app with a clear and intuitive interface that is easy to navigate.
  • Customization: Choose an app that allows you to customize visual supports such as photos and symbols, and text (words and phrases) to meet your individual communication needs.
  • Voice options: Consider an app with a variety of voice options to choose from, including natural-sounding voices.
  • Integration: Look for an app that integrates with other devices and software, such as social media platforms and email.


Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) is a valuable tool for individuals with autism who have difficulty speaking. AAC apps for nonverbal communication can help autistic adults express themselves and communicate more effectively. APP2Speak is one example of an effective AAC app that can be used by autistic adults to communicate their thoughts and ideas.

While AAC apps are not a replacement for speech, they can provide a means of communication for individuals who are nonverbal or have limited speech. AAC apps can also help individuals with autism build their language and communication skills, which can lead to increased independence and socialization.

It’s important to note that not all AAC apps are created equal. Some apps may be more effective than others, depending on the individual’s needs and preferences. Before selecting an AAC app, it is important to do your research and consult with a speech-language pathologist or other healthcare professional. If you’re considering APP2Speak, you can schedule a schedule a demo on our Contact Page.

Overall, AAC apps can be a powerful tool for individuals with autism who have difficulty speaking. With the right app and the right support, individuals with autism can communicate their thoughts and ideas, build their language skills, and improve their quality of life.