Allied Health and Non-Speech Communication

The purpose of this article is to share some information about non-speech communication, also known as Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). In addition, to seek the readers views regarding discipline specific contributions and needs in this field of intervention. I have been fortunate in my career to work with team members who are very skilled at what they do. As a result, I have developed a great appreciation of how best outcomes can be achieved for everyone when teamwork is applied. In this article I set the scene by providing some information from the personal perspective and the research literature regarding AAC and the multidisciplinary approach. From here I am hoping that the readers will participate in webinars with me so that we can share information and co-create some resources that will assist us as therapists in our work. The result will hopefully be better outcomes for some or even many of the people we work with who have complex communication needs (CCN).

What is a Complex Communication Need?

A communication impairment is something that can impact anyone of us at any time in our life. It may occur in association with a developmental, progressive, or acquired disability and is often not yoked to an inability to use speech functionally. We use language to communicate and ultimately to converse. Language is a dynamic system that entwines with other systems e.g. the sensory, motor, cognitive, emotional and relationship systems and within time and different environments. The over arching theory that I use in a lot of my work, especially communication partner training, is Dynamic Systems Theory. I find it a useful theory in AAC because it helps to remind me that the speech language pathologist is only one stakeholder in this particular field of intervention. Language learning and expression rely upon movement. In turn movement is often driven by sensation and motivation to satisfy needs. Language has to be conceptualised, remembered, retrieved, and integrated. Often it is linked with our emotions and experiences as well as our culture. In a nutshell…language is complex.


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