Friday Announcements – 17 May 2024

1. 5 Free Courses to Explore on Smartbox Academy
2. Bringing Language to Life Through Music
3. Higher Education Disabled Students Allowance and Students Who Use AAC
4. Take Part in Channel 4’s The Piano

News from Communication Matters:
5. Invite to Join the Communication Matters Research Interest Network
6. New for 2024 CM Communication Clubs
7. CM2024 International AAC Conference – Register Now!
8. CM2024 Conference Fancy Dress
9. About Friday Announcements

1. 5 Free Courses to Explore on Smartbox Academy

From Fin Clarke, Smartbox Assistive Technology Ltd:

We have released five courses to support your development during and beyond Learning At Work Week (Monday 13 May – Sunday 19 May). These courses were crafted in collaboration with AAC content creators, AT specialists and education professionals with firsthand experience implementing AAC in schools.

It’s free to sign up and discover our new courses on AAC and Grid software:


2. Bringing Language to Life Through Music

From Christopher Spelman, Sing and Speak:

Sing and Speak is a developing Music-Ed platform providing unique, beautifully illustrated musical content for young children with communication needs.  Our digital platform will assess the child’s communication, target needs through tailored songs, and measure progress. We also aim to host a Therapist Marketplace and a Community Forum for parents and other caregivers.

We would like your input as to whether this is something you would use and if so, how we can best help you.

We are seeking both funding and collaboration at this stage. We are raising capital to grow our team (operations, speech, technology), build a platform, and create 25-30 additional videos. We are also looking to connect with partners who share our vision and have relevant expertise. Within 12-15 months we aim to have a comprehensive, digitised music and speech platform available for those who need it anytime, anywhere.

Some examples of our videos can be viewed here. For more information and to share your thoughts, contact me at [email protected] or go to


3. Higher Education Disabled Students Allowance and Students Who Use AAC

From Beth Moulam, Communication Matters:

The Department for Education has a call for evidence, signalling further changes to the DSA. Disabled Students Allowance is the mechanism that funds additional costs for disabled students.  Here is an article about those proposals.

There is currently no specific guidance for AAC users to access support and because of complexity of need this can be a challenging process.  It would be valuable if we can collect evidence for a submission from Communication Matters regarding ‘non-medical help’ from students who use AAC.

You can complete the consultation documents as an individual or send your comments to Beth Moulam at [email protected].  Beth is a Communication Matters Trustee, post-graduate student and AAC user.


4. Take Part in Channel 4’s The Piano   

From Brennan Backs, Love Productions:

Are you or someone you know a passionate amateur pianist? We are returning to celebrate The Piano – Channel 4’s music competition for amateur pianists.

Following on from the winning success of Lucy Illingworth in 2023 at the age of 13, we would like to encourage a diverse range of applicants to take part.

Lucy is a visually impaired neurodiverse pianist from Yorkshire. You can read about Lucy’s communication through music, her learning journey and her navigation of fame in an interview with Lucy’s mother and with her piano teacher Daniel Bath here.

We are looking to hear from people who love playing the piano and wish to share their story of what the piano means to them. Whether you play pop, classical or blues we want to hear from people who play any genre of music. Maybe you play and share your music at street pianos, or part of an amateur group. You do not need to be a trained pianist, or professional but you do need to be over 6 years of age and available to film during summer/autumn of 2024. Apply now at Closing date is 14th June.


5. Invite to Join the Communication Matters Research Interest Network   

We are setting up an AAC research group online, and we would like you to join us.

You might be asking what is involved?

Our goal is to support AAC users who want to be more active in research – either taking part in research or as researchers themselves.

The two main aims of this group are to:

  1. Share information about research with AAC users
  2. Connect AAC users to research opportunities

We think it would be good to have a small group of AAC users who could share ideas about research, support the development of research projects, and support Communication Matters to develop resources that could help AAC users get more involved in research.

We plan to meet up twice a year online. The group is for AAC users who would like to learn more about research and support others to get involved.

If you like to join us to share and create new ideas and make new friends too, please get in touch with friend of Communication Matters, Charlie Moran on [email protected].

Charlie will then contact you to discuss any accessibility requirements and send out dates and links to meetings.


6. New for 2024 CM Communication Clubs

With funding from the National Lottery, Communication Matters are delighted to launch our new Communication Clubs. The aim of the Communication Clubs is to enable AAC users to meet together for peer support and make connections with other AAC users. We can also help AAC users gain an accredited qualification.

The Communication Clubs can take place in any venue or setting such as a school, college or in the local community. They can be in person or online. We are particularly interested in AAC users who have gained the Level 1 in Mentoring qualification to help co-facilitate these sessions either in person or remotely.

CM have created some useful resources and we can provide support and guidance. For more information please go to our website via this link: Communication Clubs.


7. CM2024 International AAC Conference – Register Now!

The Communication Matters International AAC Conference will take place at the University of Leeds from 8-10 September 2024.

Over the course of two and a half days, participants will enjoy a diverse programme of keynotes, plenaries, presentations, posters and talks from AAC supplier companies.

The conference provides a unique forum to meet and exchange information with representatives from all disciplines associated with AAC, including AAC users, parents, personal assistants, professionals, and suppliers of AAC equipment. Communication Matters encourages and supports AAC users to attend.

Residential accommodation will be in modern student residences, which is at the centre of the pedestrianised campus. The transport links to Leeds are very good, with a nearby airport and train station.

Registration is now open! Book early to take advantage of the Early Bird discount which expires on 12 July. See prices and book online here.


8. CM2024 Conference Fancy Dress

We are excited to announce that this year’s conference fancy dress theme is ‘Empowerment’ to fit with our conference theme. The Trustees and many others wear fancy dress for the conference dinner on the Monday night and you are encouraged to join in if you want to!

The theme is intentionally open as we hope to see lots of different ideas! What does empowerment mean to you? You could dress up as your favourite superhero or someone you admire, someone who has empowered others, or something that is meaningful to your own empowerment!

Please think sustainably and help us to reduce, reuse, recycle and say no to fast fashion. Have a dig through your wardrobe, or at a local charity shop, or why not see if you can borrow something from family/friends – they might just have the perfect item!

#Empowerment #CM2024conf


9. About Friday Announcements

These ‘Friday Announcements’ comprise weekly product updates, upcoming courses and supplier news. Please email [email protected] with the item you want to be included by Thursday at 5pm – no more than 200 words (one entry per organisation per week) – and include contact email and/or link so readers can find out further information (no file attachments please).

If you would like to receive these Friday Announcements to your email inbox each week, please subscribe to our AAC Forum or email [email protected].