Study at the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication
Recent publications |
us Research in the fields of severe disabilities,
early childhood intervention and augmentative &
Influencing policy making impacting on the lives
of people with severe disabilities.
The Centre for Augmentative & Alternative Communication
is committed to making a difference in the communication
and life-skills of people with severe disabilities, and
in particular those with complex communication needs,
- Multi-professional and community training
What is AAC?
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies
are used by people to describe the way people supplement
their communication when they can not speak clearly enough
to be understood by those around them. These strategies
include a wide range of communication methods ranging from
gestures and communication boards to assistive communication
devices. The basic premise of AAC is:
"That a person communicates is much more important than
how s/he communicates"
Is there a need for Augmentative & Alternative
Communication Intervention in South Africa?
Internationally it is estimated that 1,5-2% of the
general school population is in need of AAC services. In
addition, it is known that approximately 20% of all people
with little or no functional speech is cognitively within
In South Africa the prevalence of little or no functional
speech (LNFS) seems much higher than in other Western
countries: A study within the greater Pretoria, for example,
showed that 39% of all children in schools for children with
severe disabilities could be regarded as having LNFS.
What is it like to have a severe communication disorder?
These quotes illustrate the drastic effects that the
inability to communicate can have on an individuals life.
"I know what it is like to be fed potatoes all my life.
After all, potatoes are such good basic food for
everyday, easy to fix in many different ways. I hate
potatoes! But then, who knew that but me? I know what it
is like to be dressed in reds and blues when my
favourite colours are mint greens, lemon yellows, and
pinks. I mean can you really imagine?"
Sara Brothers (1991, p.59)
"If you want to know what it is like to be unable to
speak, there is a way. Go to a party and don't talk.
Play mute. Use your hands if you wish but don't use
paper and pencil. Paper and pencil are not always handy
for a mute person. Here is what you will find: people
talking; talking behind, beside, around, over under and
through, and even for you. But never with you. You are
ignored until finally you feel like a piece of
(Musselwhite & St Louis, 1988, p104)
Who can benefit from Augmentative or Alternative
- Anyone who is not able to communicate effectively
using speech (Non Verbal)
- People with intellectual disabilities
- Anyone who has some speech but requires an
augmentative device for purposes of writing or carrying
on long conversations.
Those who would benefit from AAC include:
- People who are physically disabled
- People with autistic tendencies
- People with developmental delays
- People with dual sensory impairments e.g vision and
Why use Augmentative or Alternative forms of
To give every individual ways to express needs and wants,
to share their feelings, thoughts and ideas to those with
whom they interact.
What are some of the facts about Augmentative &
AAC communication is a multi disciplinary field and
involves the user, parents as well professionals who they
are working with e.g. speech therapy, occupational therapy
Assessment should be ongoing to reevaluate and monitor
the specific needs of the individual client.
The use of augmentative or alternative communication is
multimodal in that no one system will be adequate for all
communication needs in all settings/environments.
In order for intervention to be effective it should be a
collaborative effort with the client and all those with whom
What do we do?
Most of the CAAC main activities are in disadvantaged
areas where training is conducted at preschool, primary and
secondary levels as well as other institutions to support
inclusion of children with severe disabilities into the
educational and employment context. Activities focus on
training as well as material and technology development to
support inclusion of children and adults with severe
communication disabilities into communities
In the 15 years of the existence of the CAAC, staff has
trained over 6 400 AAC users, parents, teachers and
therapists in facilitating communication with severe
disabilities. Follow-up visits to contexts confirmed that
the CAAC has reached over 8000 children, youth and adults
through training of families, community leaders and
professionals. Activities include training in communities as
well as five
post-graduate programs in the fields of early childhood
intervention, severe disabilities and AAC.
Leadership and advocacy
The CAAC recently embarked on a national project to
assist youth with severe disabilities in getting access to
communication and information technology, called the
Fofa Project. This project assists young people to
"speak for themselves" and facilitate their access to
The CAAC staff supports people with
their families and professional teams by conducting
consultations where they collaboratively problem-solve
issues related to communication and independent functioning
within the communities.
The CAAC has
open days once a month to provide people with severe
communication problems, their families and professionals
with the opportunity to be exposed to current high and low
technology solutions for people with little or no functional
The CAAC staff and students are engaged on an ongoing
basis in research in the fields of AAC, severe disabilities
and early childhood intervention
We impact the lives of individuals and families by
multi-professional training and research in:
- AAC and severe disabilities
- Early childhood intervention
- Technologies for communication
- Policy implementation
- New sights, new thoughts, new questions
- If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well
- Diverse individuals, collective strength
- Authenticity, integrity, accountabilty
The Centre for AAC regards the following as major
priorities in terms of intervention and rehabilitation:
Centre for Augmentative and
Fax:+27 012 420-4389
E-mail:Prof. E Alant
Centre for Augmentative and
University of Pretoria
Cnr of Lynwood and Roper Street