Richard’s Voice: What makes it work?



Personal Experience

    • Sandra Kershaw
    • Naomi Donougher


To demonstrate how encouraging and facilitating communication has improved quality of life for an AAC user with learning disabilities; increase understanding of how support workers can best support AAC use; and explain the process of building the team around the person and maintaining motivation and commitment to excellence.


Richard communicates using sign and electronic speech aid. He has grown in ability to socialise and to self advocate. Over the past five years, staff have observed and documented his progress and development, and have learned sometimes by trial an error, how best to support him and maintain the enthusiasm of the team around him.


Richard’s appetite for more words and more involvement is never satisfied. Life chances are better when you can speak for yourself. There are dilemmas and issues about control, human rights and restriction of liberties which sometimes stretch us. We have learned how to build and maintain a staff team with the skills and motivation to provide the best support.


We have developed very practical ways to ensure that his use of AAC is effective. An effective and motivated staff team is the key to success. It can be incredibly hard for a team and the person using AAC to keep going when things go wrong, but its worth the perserverance. We have found that supporting AAC use requires long term commitment, and consistency of systems, staff and resources. We offer one model for consideration; it works for Richard and we welcome the opportunity to share our experience.

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