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Augmentative and Alternative Communication Clinic

Face-To-Face Communication

As an expanded-level clinic with the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care Assistive Devices Program, AAC Clinic staff can provide access to partial funding for a full range of communication tools and devices including high-tech options that can be operated with any reliable body movement.

Many children with communication delays and disorders use Augmentative and Alternative Communication tools and strategies when their ability to speak does not match what they need to communicate. Many of these children are well-supported in their use of AAC by therapists at Niagara Children’s Centre and elsewhere in the community and there is no need for a referral to the Centre’s AAC Clinic.

The AAC Clinic at Niagara Children’s Centre offers two service streams for children who use AAC.

AAC Clinic Stream

The AAC Clinic Stream supports children who:

  • Need or will soon need access to partial funding of a communication device through the Assistive Devices Program
  • Are experiencing communication breakdown due to a limitation in their current communication methods
    • The child is attempting to communicate specific messages (i.e. the child knows the messages they want to communicate, when, and to whom) that cannot be understood by partners AND
    • The child is currently using symbols to communicate specific messages (photos, pictures or objects that represent messages) AND a new AAC system is required to allow for greater independence, efficiency or practicality
  • OR The child has complex motor and/or visual impairments that prevent pointing to symbols using fingers or hands

Service Delivery for Clinic Stream

AAC Clinic Staff will conduct a multi-appointment assessment to design, select, and customize AAC tools and strategies and then provide time-limited training to children, their families, caregivers, educators, and other therapists.

After this initial training period, up to 4 appointments per year will be available to help ensure children are using the tools and strategies as effectively as possible. These visits will be available at the Centre or a satellite site, the child’s school (with the permission of the school) or home, or virtually. With limited exceptions, the parent must be present at these appointments. It is the responsibility of the parent to contact the clinic to schedule these appointments.

AAC Consult Stream

The AAC Consult Stream supports children who are:

  • Learning to communicate with symbols (photos, pictures, or objects that represent messages) and can continue to expand their communication abilities with the tools and strategies available to them
  • Learning foundational joint attention, interaction, and language skills and/or how to use symbols to communicate

Service Delivery for Consult Stream

The child’s parent along with any other interested individuals (e.g. school professionals, private therapists, family and friends) are eligible to attend up to 4 virtual appointments per year with AAC Clinic staff.

The goal of these appointments is to provide advice and guidance to expand the child’s use of AAC using tools available to the child. At least one goal and goal achievement strategies will be provided at each appointment. Resources (e.g. handouts, symbols to try) may also be provide to assist with achieving the suggested goals.

The parent must be present at all sessions. It is the responsibility of the parent contact the clinic to schedule these appointments.

Some children in the Consult Stream may be prescribed a low-technology device or no-technology paper-based symbol system (i.e. graphic display) through the Assistive Device Program. In-person appointments may be added to the service delivery model. If these children have stable communication needs (i.e. the tools and strategies are expected to meet the child’s needs for a long period of time, they will remain in the Consult Stream.

Children may move to the AAC Clinic Stream when they meet eligibility requirements.

Note: children currently receiving services from a Niagara Children’s Centre School or Early Years Niagara Children’s Centre Speech-Language Pathologist will receive Consult Stream services within their existing therapy sessions at a maximum frequency of once per month. The service may be provided by AAC Clinic staff or other Niagara Children’s Centre Speech-Language Pathologists or Occupational Therapists with expertise in AAC.

General Eligibility

Eligibility for AAC Face-to-Face Clinic:

  • Birth-Age 18
  • Speech does not meet day-to-day communication needs
  • Parent commitment to follow through on recommendations and programming. Parents will be required to attend and participate in sessions

Eligibility for partial device funding through the Assistive Devices Program:

  • Valid health card
  • Device must be used primarily at home or in the community (i.e. – not only for use at school)
  • Children cannot have a primary diagnosis of hearing impairment or require a device primarily to assist with improving language skills


Children who are receiving services from a Niagara Children’s Centre Speech-Language Pathologist:

  • Referrals are made by the child’s Niagara Children’s Centre Speech-Language Pathologist
  • Note: All Niagara Children’s Centre speech-language pathologists provide AAC strategies for face-to-face communication dependent on individual child needs. A referral to the AAC Clinic is not necessary if the AAC strategies by the child’s primary Niagara Children’s Centre speech-language pathologist is meeting the child’s needs.

Children who are not receiving services from a Niagara Children’s Centre Speech-Language Pathologist:

  • Referrals can be made by parents, legal guardians and physicians by calling 905-688-1890 ext. 110. Referrals are no longer directly accepted from School-Board staff or private practitioners. If a parent/legal guardian requires support to make the referral, any professional involved with the family may assist the family by calling jointly or by setting up a virtual intake appointment by calling the number above.
For children not involved with a Niagara Children’s Centre Speech-Language Pathologist, a referral can be made by parents/legal guardians or primary care providers.