Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) Includes all forms of communication (other than oral speech) that are used to express thoughts, needs, wants, and ideas. People with severe speech or language problems rely on AAC to supplement existing speech or replace speech that is not functional. Augmentative communication methods such as picture symbols, manual signs and speech generating devices are used in addition to speech, while the same methods used as alternative communication are used instead of speech. This may increase social interaction, performance, and feelings of self-worth. AAC users should be encouraged to use speech if they are able to do so. The AAC aids and devices are used to enhance their communication (American Speech-Language Hearing Association).
- Aided AAC: Communication symbols, techniques and strategies that use something external to the body to represent, select or transmit information (Lloyd et al, 1997). For example, picture symbols, communication book, alphabet board, speech generating device.
- Unaided AAC: Communication symbols, techniques and strategies that use only the body or parts of the body to represent, select or transmit information (Lloyd et al, 1997). For example, key word sign, gesture, facial expression, fingerspelling.
Our goal is to create an inclusive school community where all forms of communication are valued, advocated for and practised. We aim to have shared beliefs about communication diversities and shared understandings about inclusive communication practices. Creating and sustaining a learning environment where diverse communicators can fulfil their potential is essential.
Developing whole team understanding of the purpose and application of AAC is critical to the success of AAC. Common attitudes, beliefs and knowledge of communication partners to meet the individual needs of students continues to be developed through professional learning and peer mentoring opportunities. Students’ speech pathologists have the capacity to upskill school-based communication partners, particularly in the areas of PODD and Key Word Sign (KWS) with training and support.
PODD training: 10 of 22 staff have completed one-day training. Two have completed the two-day PODD training and have expressed interest in the five-day course.
Pots-graduate studies in AAC: two teachers have commenced the Graduate Certificate of Education (Special Education: Complex Communication Needs) course at Edith Cowan University.
KWS: all staff members completed basic KWS training in February 2021. New staff will be offered the opportunity to attend training when it is next available.
AUSLAN: During 2019, various staff members enrolled in an online AUSLAN course, and some attended some face-to-face training sessions.
PROJECT CORE: Staff have commenced Project Core online professional learning modules in February 2021.
Ongoing professional learning and support in AAC are a school priority.