Alternative and Augmentive Communication (AAC) Information Session

Parents of AAC users, with support from Millwater PTFA, organised a 1-day information session about using AAC-based strategies to develop literacy and broaden learning opportunities for children with Complex Communication Needs (CCN).

The event, held in Budleigh Salterton Public Hall, was attended by 60 people including a range of professionals from education, health and social care from teachers and TAs, to speech and language therapists, ROVICs and enablers as well as parents of current or prospective AAC users.

AAC stands for Augmentative Alternative Communication, an umbrella term encompassing high- and low-tech communication methods used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in the production or comprehension of spoken or written language. This could be voice-output communication aids or paper-based symbols.
The speaker was Marion Stanton, Lead Trainer and Assessor for Communication and Learning Enterprises Ltd. In an interactive session where participants had the chance to try out different AAC strategies, Marion highlighted the danger that children with severe CCN are sometimes not being sufficiently challenged or given opportunity to develop the wide range of social and communicative functions necessary to assert their independence including commenting, persuading and refusing. She noted that conventional teaching of this cohort of children has put much more emphasis instead on choice-making and answering predictable questions, leading to young people becoming over-compliant as well as misconceptions about their cognitive capacity. However, setting greater expectations of ALL children leads to higher attainment.

Marion then outlined the scope of the AAC City and Guilds syllabus, which is designed to teach a wide range of different skills of communication, and to give schools and young people structure and tangible goals in their learning journey.

In the interactive session, all groups had in the end resorted to spelling some words to get their message across, which nicely added weight to Marion’s key argument, that it essential to teach literacy to all children in schools!

The third session started by explaining some of the educational research which has been undertaken into AAC learners and the particular challenges they face, and went on to introduce some different tools and techniques which can be used to enhance learning. This started with ‘alternative pencils’ showing how any child, even with a very significant physical disability, can be given the chance to [virtually] ‘scribble’ and progressed through phonics and emerging literacy resources to demonstrating how complex textbooks can be formatted to be accessible for AAC learners.

For more information about the event and follow-up please contact devonaacparents@outlook.com. This mail address is managed by parents, who are especially keen to hear from anyone who is introduced in their child exploring the AAC City and Guilds. The speaker’s website, with more information about available tools is https://www.candleaac.org/ One other great site with links to many more related resources is http://www.teachustoo.org.uk/