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Parallel Pathways for Developing Language and Access

Practice Report
  • Julie Atkinson (Access to Communication and Technology)

To demonstrate, through case studies and practical ideas, how language and access to Assistive Technology can develop in parallel before being merged.


For children with complex physical disabilities, ACT often promote a separation of access method development from language development. We identify optimal access method(s) and recommend stimulating, fun, low pressure ideas for developing these using computer games, Environmental Control systems and powered mobility. Alongside this, we recommend the ongoing development and use of low tech (symbol) resources such as communication books and/or Aided Language Displays, with extensive use of modelling, to build language, again with less pressure for the child to perform physically.


This approach has been very successful, as we will demonstrate via case studies. The combination of these parallel pathways has been very motivating for the children and their teams, developing skill sets which can be used to successsfully introduce access to complex language on a Voice Output Communication Aid. We have also found that, for many of the children that we see, there have been improvements in physical control and an increased drive to communicate.


ACT therefore continue to promote the use of low pressure activities to develop access and language for clients of all ages.

Level of Session 
Age Group 
Primary school
Secondary school
Special school