If the successful monitoring and assessment of an individual pupil’s access needs is to be maintained, then a simple but secure framework of protocols and procedures needs to be established in school to ensure this can take place. The framework could include:
- An AAC development plan.
- An AAC policy.
- The creation of a community of AAC users.
An AAC school development plan that is effective should ensure:
- That each staff member is aware of the importance of AAC support to communication within the school, wherever it takes place within the school.
- That each staff member receives training in the support of AAC, appropriate for their interaction with AAC users within the school.
- That the school environment is regularly reviewed in order to ensure it is supportive to the AAC users.
- That all AAC users within school are recorded and their access needs are maintained and updated.
To ensure that the good practice outlined in the policy statement is incorporated into school practice, a school’s AAC development plan should describe the purpose and function of AAC within the school’s overall education framework.
It will also need to plan to provide opportunities to:
- Update the training of all appropriate staff in identified AAC skills.
- Review and update equipment that no longer efficiently serves its purpose.
- Ensure that school environments are accessible to all AAC users.
- Make sure that, where appropriate, AAC is included within curriculum planning.
- Ensure that pupils are able to use AAC to express their needs, preferences and emotions.
To ensure that the successful monitoring and review of AAC assessment needs takes place, the school should have, and be committed to, the embedded principles of an AAC policy statement.
The following principles should be embedded within an AAC policy statement:
- AAC is the responsibility of the whole school.
- AAC is integrated across the curriculum.
- All staff will use AAC systems (symbols and signing) where appropriate in their interactions with pupils. This will develop a ‘community of users’ – see the slide that follows to find out more.
- Staff will receive initial and ongoing training in the use of AAC within their area of responsibility.
In the following clips, two schools demonstrate how an augmentative system (signing)
being supported and developed across each school.
Consider the clips on the previous slide.
How does the augmentative system (signing) enhance each pupil’s experience?
- Learn new signs together that will aid their interaction across the school.
- Choose the signs that they wish to learn.
- Understand about the categories of things – such as food and clothes.
- Learn about 'difficult to understand concepts' – such as emotions.
- Express their emotions more easily.
- Make staff aware of their changing emotions.
- Interact better socially during breaks.
- Sign with their pupils – including those encountered in the classroom, therapy areas, dining room and social areas.
What areas of access to the curriculum are being covered in this session?
- A range of switches are being used.
- A broad selection of access to switches is provided.
- There are several motivators to use a switch.
- Individual targets from an IEP are included.
- The aims of the lesson and individual targets are shared with the pupils.
In this video, a group of young people enjoy the real benefits of social interaction.
What were they able to share with each other?
- Shared favourite TV programmes.
- Details of shopping trips.
- Where they have been.
- Where Lauren is going.
- They could ask each other questions.
- Share excitement at the prospect of the school prom.
By following the principles embedded in an AAC policy statement and by developing a school development plan that is regularly reviewed and updated, a school can become a community of AAC users, where each pupil can:
- Develop individual communication skills to the best of their ability.
- Access the curriculum and perform at the highest level possible.
- Interact successfully with staff and parents.
- Engage in social interaction.
- Experience achievement and success above all else.