Many of us take for granted how important our communication is when functioning in our homes, schools, and communities. We often don’t think about what it would be like if we could not speak. Think about all the people you have spoken to today and all the things you have said. Language allows us to control our environment. It allows us to influence those around us. It gives us a way to ask for what we need, request assistance, socialize with others, and express thoughts and feelings. Many students with significant communication difficulties display inappropriate behaviors due to their inability to communicate.

Students with disabilities sometimes have limited communication and exhibit poor language skills. Many techniques are used to increase their language skills or to teach them a new, alternate way to communicate, including the use of signs (such as American Sign Language), the use of pictures or symbols (such as the Picture Exchange Communication System or PECS), or the use of a more sophisticated communication device or program. These tools are sometimes referred to as augmentative or alternative communication systems.