3 - Allied Health Professions

Transforming Services and Provision for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a method of communicating that supplements impaired speech and handwriting.

316,000 people are known to need AAC support in the UK (around 0.05% of the population).

Many people are missing out on specialist provision including the use of powered communication aids.

MMU researchers have raised awareness of AAC and contributed significantly to improving the evidence base, increasing funding, and enhancing service provision.

Underpinning Research

In 2004, MMU researchers Juliet Goldbart and Julie Marshall, co-authored a Cochrane review that uncovered inconsistency in ways in which communication intervention data was being gathered. Results led to the adoption of a case study template for academics.

In 2009, Janice Murray, in partnership with Sheffield University, Barnsley Hospital NHS Trust and Communication Matters, led a £0.5M Big Lottery project to produce an AAC website; case study database and research network.

Murray used the previous 2004 MMU research to inform the design of the case study template and led an inclusive process to ensure that research met the needs of the communities most affected by AAC.

Key references

Pennington, L., Goldbart, J., Marshall, J. (2004) Speech and language therapy to improve the communication skills of children with cerebral palsy. In: The Cochrane Library Issue 2, Chichester: Wiley. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003466.pub2

Murray, J., Martin, A., Pennington, L., Marshall, J., Enderby, P. & Goldbart, J (2013). A case study template to support experimental design in Augmentative and Alternative Communication and Assistive Technology. Disability & Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology. DOI:10.3109/17483107.2013.851744


MMU’s lead role in the Big Lottery funded Communication-Matters Research Matters project resulted in the development of two products: the AAC Knowledge website www.aacknowledge.com and The AAC case study template and database.

The AACKnowledge website has generated 5000 unique hits since going live in December 2012.

The website was developed through comprehensive engagement and The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication has officially recognised it across its network of 50 countries.

“The AAC knowledge website is a ground breaking tool. This was a particularly timely piece of work in the light of changing policy with regard to how AAC services will be delivered in the future.” (Chair of national AAC charity, Communication Matters).

MMU maintains the content on www.aacknowledge.com making us the recognised home of AAC knowledge and research.

MMU research has increased recognition for AAC amongst UK policy makers leading to an additional £6.5M UK Government investment in AAC services.

In 2008, John Bercow, published a “Review of services for children and young people (0-19 years) with speech, language and communication needs”.

The review led to the appointment of a Communication Champion who worked alongside MMU researcher Murray to map services and provision required for AAC in England and Wales. In March 2012, Murray led a House of Lords reception that resulted in on-going discussions with politicians.

Discussions led to £2.5 million DfE grants for AAC services in England and Wales, followed up with a £4M pot for Scotland.


AACKnowledge.com website

Web story “Janice takes fight to Parliament” (March 2012) corroborating impact of MMU research on political awareness raising and policy forming around AAC provision.

Press release evidencing MMU’s role in the creation of www.aacknowledge.com.