What is the Role of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) in SLP?

Augmentaive and Alternative Communication

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (ACC) is an important part of how we all communicate with one another. The term describes the different methods that we use in addition to speech to communicate with one another. Regardless of our speaking ability, most people use common ACC methods like waving, giving thumbs up, and pointing to supplement the things we say and make our communication clearer.

ACC can be used by school-aged children with speech language pathology issues to help them find more effective ways of communicating. It can even be used by infants who have not yet developed language skills. Baby sign language, for example, has been shown to help babies express ideas before they are able to form words, reducing their frustration and encouraging them to start speaking earlier. In severe cases, children and adults can use advanced ACC methods to supplement their speech abilities or replace speech if they are unable to communicate verbally.

There are three levels of augmentative and alternative communication:

No Tech ACC – This is supplementary communication that we all do using just our hands, expressions, and bodies. Gestures, vocalizations, and signing all qualify as no tech ACC.

Low Tech ACC – When you write someone a note instead of speaking to them, that’s a form of low tech ACC. Simple objects like picture boards, photos, word boards, and pads of paper can all be used to communicate simple ideas.

High Tech ACC – When speech is severely limited, a more technical approach to ACC is often required. These systems often use tablets, computers, or special mobile devices to let the user get across the idea they want to express. For example, Stephen Hawking’s communication system is a famous example of high tech ACC.

If your child has a significant speech impediment or a disability that hinders normal language development, you should talk to a speech language pathologist for kids about different ACC methods that might be helpful. With the right ACC tools, children with speech and language difficulties can become much more confident and relaxed, because they can have the joy of speaking their mind and being understood, which is an incredibly powerful thing. 

Need an Executive Speech Coach? Here’s What to Look For

Executive Speech Coach Chicago

You know your business inside and out. You are great at your job, and you love doing it. But when it comes time to direct your team or make a presentation to your bosses, you’re not as confident as you’d like to be. You worry that you’re not making your points clearly. The tenor of the questions you receive makes you doubt the strength of your voice. You’re afraid you might be boring your audience or losing them in the details.

The good news is, you’re not alone. Virtually every business person could benefit from the help of an executive speech coach. Improving communication as a leader is an essential part of growing within your field, expanding your business, and/or moving up the corporate ladder. The better you can communicate, the better you can inspire, motivate, direct, and command the people around you.

A great executive speech coach can help you improve your style of speaking, your clarity, your presentation skills, and your confidence when speaking in public.

But how do you know whether the coach you’ve chosen is going to deliver what you need? Here are seven questions to consider when choosing your coach: 

  1. How many years of experience do they have?
  2. Do they have good references? (Do you know anyone who they have worked with, or are they willing to let you speak to some of their past clients?)
  3. Do they have expertise in your field?
  4. Are they a licensed speech language pathologist? (Do they really know what they’re talking about, or are they just passing themselves off as a speech coach?)
  5. Are they good at listening to your needs?
  6. Are they willing to be flexible with their curriculum or to customize their sessions to your unique needs?
  7. Do you get along with them?

At BNM, our highly experienced executive speech coaches are all licensed speech-language pathologists with multiple years of experience coaching leaders at every level. If you’re looking for Chicago executive speech coaching, give our office a call to schedule a free assessment. We can help you identify your presentation strengths and weaknesses and provide you with a personalized plan for improving your communication skills.  

Top Signs of Communication Disorders Among School-Aged Children


Signs of a communication disorder among children can begin in infancy. If at two months a baby is not yet smiling or interacting with people, that could be a mark of a speech or language disorder.

Speech and language disorders can come in many forms ranging from mild to severe, so noticing a sign of a disorder isn’t necessarily something to get too worried about. That said, the earlier you can identify a potential problem, the sooner you can take early intervention steps which could greatly help your child’s communication, socialization, and academic success.

If you notice signs of a possible speech or language disorder, you should talk to your pediatrician. He or she might refer you to a speech language pathologist if they agree that there are communication disorder signs present. About one in twelve children from the ages of three to seventeen have a disorder related to voice, speech, language or swallowing, according to the National Institutes of Health. You can see a list of the speech milestones your child should be hitting at various ages here.

By the time your child begins first grade, he or she should be able to:

  • Understand most of what is said to him or her at home
  • Follow two- to three-step directions
  • Say letters and numbers
  • Repeat back phrases and short sentences
  • Relate events
  • Say most sounds in words with a few mistakes
  • Ask and answer simple questions
  • Hold a simple conversation

Causes of speech-language disorders vary, and not all of the causes are known. Some factors that might affect speech-language development in young children include family history, medical issues, poor nutrition, and developmental delays like autism spectrum disorder or Down’s Syndrome.

Signs of Speech-Language Disorders in School-Age Children

One sign of a speech disability or articulation problem in young children is problems with intelligibility, meaning adults have great difficulty understanding the child.

Some of the signs of language disorders are:

  • Limited vocabulary
  • Trouble making sentences
  • Using a limited number of phrases and sentences
  • Seeming frustrated by the inability to communicate basic wants, thoughts, and needs

Signs of a fluency disorder include sound, syllable, word, and phrase repetitions and pauses which don’t appear to be average.

Signs of a voice disorder include:

  • Speaking unusually softly or loudly
  • Having an unusual quality to the voice
  • Breathiness

If you notice any of these warning signs in your child who is about to start school, talk to your pediatrician as well as your child’s school about whether speech language pathology might be appropriate. You can also give our office a call to schedule a screening at any time.

The True Value of Leaders with Great Communication Skills

Leaders with Great Communication Skills

Miscommunication is a rampant problem in business. A survey of 400 US and UK corporations found that employee misunderstanding cost those companies a total of $37 billion over the course of one year. However, improving communication can lead to greater success for individuals and the entire company. Another study found that companies with leaders who are highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns than companies with ineffective communicators.

How do you know whether you’re an effective communicator? The simplest litmus test is to assess whether your employees deliver what you ask for when you ask for it. Do they fall short of goals? Do they fail to meet your expectations? A likely culprit is poor communication.

With our Chicago executive speech coaching services, we do a full assessment to find out where your communication strengths lie and where you could use improvement. Communication is about more than the words being spoken. It is about tone, organization, clarity, and connection.

That final piece – connection -- is often overlooked by executives, which is why miscommunication is such a big problem. Taking the time to ask follow up questions and providing your employees with the opportunity to ask questions of you goes a long way toward improving communication as a leader. Here are a few tips for effective questioning:

  • Leave time in meetings for questions. If you say you’ll answer questions but limit the time or the number, employees won’t feel like you actually want to hear their questions.
  • Don’t embarrass the asker. There is such a thing as a dumb question, but if someone asks about something that you already covered, bear in mind that you may not have been as clear as you thought you were.
  • When asking questions, never be hostile. Your goal should be to connect, not to antagonize.
  • Remember that different people learn in different ways. If something you’re saying isn’t sinking in, try to find a new way to frame your words or incorporate a whiteboard to sketch out your meaning more clearly.

Both asking questions and giving your employees regular opportunities to ask questions of you will help minimize miscommunications. Being open to questions might also highlight problem areas in your communication skills if you get the same sorts of questions on a regular basis.

If that happens, BNM can offer customized executive speech coaching to help take your communication and presentation skills to the next level. Give us a call to learn more. 

Employees Say These Are the Top Communication Issues from Leaders

Executive Speech Coaching Chicago

A 2015 survey found that 91% of employees think communication issues can drag executives down. If you feel that you don’t connect well with your direct reports, it could be effecting their job performance and yours, holding all of you back. Effectively communicating with employees requires high emotional intelligence as well as the ability to connect, to organize your thoughts, and to present your ideas with confidence and clarity. These are all skills that can be developed and improved with executive speech coaching.

You may be saying to yourself, “I talk to my employees all the time.” But what do they hear when you speak? According to the 2015 survey of about 1,000 US workers, most executives have the following communication issues:

  • They don’t recognize employee achievements (63%)
  • They don’t give clear directions (57%)
  • They don’t have time to meet with their employees (52%)
  • They take credit for ideas that aren’t their own (47%)

How do your employees respond to interactions with you? Do they seem motivated? Are they comfortable asking you clarifying questions? Do they avoid talking to you for any reason? If the answers to any of these questions give you pause, it is worth considering the benefits of executive speech coaching.

With our one-on-one coaches in Chicago, executive speech coaching focuses on both verbal and non-verbal communication. Your coaching begins with an assessment of your skills to determine where you are strong and what areas could use improvement. Through practical exercises and instruction, you will learn how to integrate the following skills into your business communication:

  • Encouragement – how to show your employees that their work is appreciated and valued
  • Feedback – how to offer constructive criticism that is tailored to the sensibilities of the person being addresses
  • Questioning – how to ask questions that encourage engagement and respond to questions clearly
  • Empathy – how to show your employees that you understand them and care about their wellbeing
  • Attitude – how to do all of the above while still maintaining authority and garnering respect 

If you’re interested in learning more about executive speech coaching in Chicago, contact our team today. We can tell you more about our coaching services, all of which can be tailored to your unique needs. 

The Magnitude of National Aphasia Awareness Month

Asphasia and Language

Aphasia is a communication disorder that affects over two million Americans, and the number of new cases is on the rise. In fact, the number of aphasia cases diagnosed annually is expected to double by 2020. If aphasia affects you or a member of your family, read on to learn more about what causes this disorder and how it can be addressed with speech language pathology.

Aphasia is always the result of a brain injury – it’s not a disease that occurs on its own. The most common cause of aphasia is a stroke, but it can also result from head injuries, brain tumors, or some serious infections. Typically, when damage occurs to the left half of the brain – the half that contains language – aphasia can result.

The symptoms of aphasia can vary greatly in severity from person to person. It can present itself as difficulty speaking, listening, reading, or writing. Intelligence is not affected by aphasia, and language skills can sometimes be recovered with therapy, depending upon the symptoms.

There are many different types of aphasia, and speech is affected differently with each type. For example, a person who has suffered damage to the front part of their brain may have broken, jerky speech but be able to understand what other people are saying to them. A person who has suffered damage to the back of their brain may be able to speak in a normal tone and rhythm, but have difficulty finding the right words, or they may make up words.

Aphasia symptoms often don’t fit neatly into a single category, and a person’s aphasia classification can change as their communication improves over time. It’s also possible for aphasia not to be the only communication disorder present. Sometimes aphasia occurs in tandem with language impairments such as dysarthia or apraxia.

Proper assessment by a speech pathologist is essential to ensure that the type and level of speech function available is appropriately identified. After careful assessment, a speech language pathologist can work with the affected person and their family to determine the types of therapeutic interventions to be pursued based on the person’s needs and goals. Through regular therapy, some of the symptoms of aphasia can be lessened and new methods of communication can be forged.

To begin therapy with a speech pathologist in Chicago, contact our office. To learn more about aphasia, visit www.aphasia.org

Understanding the True Reach of Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer's Disease and Speech Language Pathology

Alzheimer’s Disease is the most common form of dementia. This heartbreaking disease affects more than five million Americans, meaning that it reaches into tens of millions of homes. Alzheimer’s can be a devastating diagnosis for both the person afflicted and his or her family, as it currently has no cure.

The onset of dementia becomes more and more likely as a person becomes older – age is the primary risk factor, though genetics can also play a part. Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive brain disease that is characterized by memory loss and confusion, but the symptoms can also be physical, leading to greater difficulty over time completing every-day tasks. Alzheimer’s patients have diminishing function in their memory, reasoning, visuospatial ability, and behavior. One of the most frustrating aspects of Alzheimer’s is how it affects a person’s ability to communicate.

Confusion makes it difficult for a person suffering from Alzheimer’s to speak coherently with the people around them, because they may forget who they are. But beyond confusion, Alzheimer’s can make it difficult for people to successfully retrieve words. Word salad is also common – this is a symptom in which people use the wrong word, such as, “It’s time to take the sandwich for a walk.” While there is not yet a cure for dementia or Alzheimer’s specifically, some medicines and therapies can be used to help ward off the worst symptoms for as long as possible. For example, a speech language pathologist can help affected families better understand the connection between Alzheimer’s Disease and speech. They can work with your loved one to help them hold onto their communication skills and find new ways to communicate.

While the research is constantly developing, it does seem evident that the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease and communication loss can be deterred by regular mental and physical exercise. For example, doing jigsaw puzzles and crossword puzzles can help keep the mind sharp. Once Alzheimer’s has been diagnosed, speech language pathologists can still use intervention strategies to help keep the mind active, manage symptoms, and maximize functional abilities.

An added benefit of working with a speech language pathologist is the support and information they bring to the table, for both the patient and their caregivers. To learn more, contact our team today! 

Common Speech and Language Disorders Among School-Age Children

Communication Disorders

School years are the best time to address speech and language disorders in children. When children deal with a speech disorder, it can lead to bullying, reduced participation and enthusiasm in class, low self-esteem, and a host of other issues. All of these concerns can be minimized with speech language pathology.

The first step is recognizing what problems might exist. Children can have a wide variety of speech language disorders, sometimes in combination. The most common include:

Speech Sound Disorders - More commonly known as articulation or phonological disorders, these sorts of issues are among the most easily identifiable speech-language disorders. Children often have difficulty pronouncing certain sounds, such as “S” or “R” sounds. Sometimes this problem is developmental and sometimes it requires therapeutic intervention. Speech language pathologists can help you recognize the difference.

Language Disorders - The two main types seen in children are Receptive Language Disorder – difficulty understanding what is read and/or heard – and Expressive Language Disorder – difficulty expressing oneself with spoken words and/or written words.

Cognitive-Communication Disorders - These disorders manifest as difficulty with critical thinking skills. These skills can include:

  • Following Directions
  • Reading/Writing Skills
  • Pragmatic Skills
  • Decision-making Skills
  • Memory Skills
  • Attention Skills
  • Reasoning Skills
  • Executive Functioning
  • Imagination
  • Problem Solving

Fluency Disorders - These are more commonly known as Stuttering Disorders. A stutter manifests as difficulty with the flow of speech. This may include sound, syllable, and word repetitions; hesitations; interjections; and prolongations of sounds or words. This is another easily identifiable set of speech-language disorders.

Voice Disorders - Speaking too loudly or softly, chronic hoarseness, or speaking nasally can all be signs of a voice disorder.

Properly Identifying Speech-Language Problems

If you suspect that your child may have a speech or language disorder, you should make an appointment with your school’s speech language pathologist. If your school doesn’t have a pathologist, or if you want outside help for any reason, BNM can help.

One of our speech pathologists can meet with your child to conduct a screening and determine if further evaluation is needed. If necessary, a full battery of tests can be done – all of which are simple and safe – in order to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your child’s speech-language skills. Goals and objectives can then be set, and the best method of therapy – individual, in a small group, or in the classroom, for example – can be discussed.

To learn more or to schedule a screening with a speech pathologist in Chicago, contact our team today

Celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month

Celebrating Better Speech and Hearing Month

May is Better Hearing and Speech Month (BHSM). The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) promotes BHSM every year in schools and corporations to help raise awareness about communication disorders and to highlight the true value of being heard.

This year, the theme of BHSM is “Communication: The Key to Connection.” When surrounded by people with more-or-less normal communication skills, we tend to forget just how fortunate we are to be able to speak our minds, listen to others, and exchange ideas freely and easily. When a problem interferes with that connection, the results can be isolation, loneliness, and self-doubt.

If you or someone close to you has difficulty communicating for any reason, celebrating Better Hearing and Speech Month is a great way to bring attention to the need for more effective communication at every level of our society. If you’re looking for ways to recognize BHSM, ASHA provides a wide variety of resources on their website. If you’re feeling inspired to work on your own communication skills, we can help you with that.

Whether you’re the parent of a child who has difficulty communicating effectively or a professional who would like to work on your own speaking and presenting skills, a speech language pathologist can be an invaluable resource. Communication disorders range from mild stutters to the inability to form words. And of course, you don’t need to have any sort of disorder to know that your presentation skills could improve with a little coaching.

In a school setting, a speech pathologist can use exercises, activities, and positive encouragement to help your child gain confidence in their voice while strengthening their ability to make themselves heard and understood.

In a work setting, a speech pathologist can help executives recognize speech patterns that might be hindering their presentations and practice better posture, projection, clarity, and organization, among other skills. Whether you need confidence speaking in front of groups or more effective methods for getting through to your boss, executive speech coaching can have an astounding impact upon your career.

BHSM is a reminder of how strong communication skills can impact everyday interactions, academic performance, career path, and self-confidence. To learn more, contact our team today! 


Get a 15 Minute Screening with Our Executive Speech Coaches

Executive Speech Coaches in Chicago

In the business world, verbal presentations are an essential component of success. You can write reports, put together charts, and find other non-verbal ways to make a sale, share an idea, or solve a problem. But ultimately you need to be able to clearly state your case in order to achieve what you’re after. Effective verbal communication, which includes everything from tone of voice to organization of content, is simply critical.

With our executive speech coaching in Chicago, we help everyone from budding executives to experienced C-suiters find ways to improve their presentation skills. Everyone has room for improvement, and with a skilled executive speech coach on your side, you can learn how to take your presentations to the next level through private sessions (rather than in front of a full board room).

To show new clients what we have to offer, BNM is currently offering a free fifteen-minute screening with an executive speech coach in Chicago.

In just fifteen minutes, you’ll have the opportunity to show us a sample of your presentation style. We will then provide you with a quick and clear assessment of your skills. You will learn: 

  • How your presentation style is perceived by listeners
  • The effectiveness of your presentation’s organization
  • How well your voice comes across while presenting
  • Areas of strength to build upon
  • Areas of weaknesses that could use further work
  • Possible exercises and therapies that could improve your presentation skills

The fifteen-minute screening has no strings attached. You’ll be able to walk away with a better sense of where your presentation skills excel and where they could improve.

You’ll also learn how the executive speech coaches at BNM can help you take the skills you have to the next level. Your personal coaching plan will be tailored to your goals, your current skill level, and the areas that you are most interested in focusing on. Our speech coaches can provide you with a thorough understanding of how your executive speech coaching will work and what sorts of results you should expect.

To set up your free fifteen-minute screening, contact our team today