- Where can I get training on AAC? Will it cost me anything and will I have to pay for it?
This is dependent on your role and which elements of AAC you want to be trained in. The Communication Matters (CM) website contains information for people who are new to AAC and CM produces a number of ‘Focus on …’ leaflets which provide a very simple introduction to various aspects of AAC.
For specific training on signing, whether for the deaf community or for other augmented communicators local FE colleges often run part-time or evening courses, or, if you are working with children who sign, it is worth asking your child’s school and/or speech and language therapy department about any courses they might run.
There is limited formal training available in the use of symbols for communication. CALL Scotland run courses on the use of symbols in schools, Talking Mats offer one day training courses around the UK, Makaton reps run training workshops in signs and symbols around the UK, or again, ask your local team about specific training for your needs.
Widgit, Mayer-Johnson (Picture Communication Symbols), provide on-line training in the use of their symbol software.
Elklan run a number of courses for parents, teachers, therapists and practitioners working with children and adults with complex communication needs, and those who use AAC. These courses are externally accredited through apt awards, the accreditation is dependent on completion of a portfolio.
If your interest is in a particular high-tech voice output communication aid (VOCA) and you are working with individual VOCA users the company supplying the system will probably be able to offer some training, at least initially, and many suppliers have or are developing on-line training resources. The therapists and/or specialist teachers working with the VOCA user should be able to offer either formal training or informal support in using their communication.
AAC specialist assessment centres might run training courses for both families/carers and professionals. Some companies run free information days or workshops that give an overview of their products.
The costs for these training opportunities vary and generally would have to be paid by the person attending.
If a particular strategy or system has been recommended by your local speech and language therapy or education team then they should be able to offer you group or individual training and support in the use of these.
CM offers a range of training events including road shows and conferences. Communication Matters Roadshows are a useful way to get an overview of what is available and to talk to suppliers. The annual Communication Matters conference is an event where people who use AAC, family members, carers and professionals meet to exchange information and ideas both formally and informally. There are many different presentations, a number of which are aimed specifically at people who use AAC, as well as an exhibition at which many AAC suppliers are available to demonstrate their systems. In addition CM runs occasional study days on more specific topics e.g. literacy, eye-gaze.
- How do I know it is the right training for me?
Take advice from professionals working with you and your family.
- Who can support me to find the right training?
Speech and language therapists, AAC specialists in education, AAC specialist centres, communication aid suppliers, people who use AAC and their families and carers.
- I seem to know more than the professionals about AAC, what training do they get?
Newly qualified professionals have a generalist training in their chosen discipline. People who specialise in AAC usually develop their knowledge through additional training, both formal and informal, whilst working. Not all local areas currently have specialists in AAC.
Post qualification courses in AAC are available at Dundee and Manchester Metropolitan Universities and the ACE Centre.
Recent training related initiatives
The new NHS England commissioning of specialised AAC services aims to develop local teams, supported by regional hubs, to be able to support the needs of the majority of AAC users in their areas, in England only.
NHS Education for Scotland has developed IPAACKS which “describes the core values required of those who work with people who use AAC or people who may benefit from AAC. In addition, IPAACKS presents the AAC specific knowledge and skills that workers should aspire to achieve in relation to the role they play in supporting individuals who use AAC” and provides a framework for workers to develop their knowledge and skills so that they can better support people who use AAC. The package is available on line and would be applicable to health, education and social care staff working with people who use AAC throughout the UK.
The AACScotland website contains many ideas, resources and links about AAC. They have also developed a series of five online learning modules aimed at people who are new to AAC.