For the purposes of this toolkit, a person with communication support needs is someone who is not able to use speech, or does not have sufficient verbal language skills, to meet all of their communication needs. It includes people who use augmentative and/or alternative forms of communication (“AAC”) as a means to communicate, as well as people who have no functional means of communication. In the context of AAC, augmentative means “in addition to speech”, and alternative means “instead of speech”.
Throughout this toolkit, the term “little or no speech” is used interchangeably with the term “communication support needs”, both referencing a person with little or no functional speech. Please note that the term “non-verbal” is distinguished from “non-speaking” in that the former suggests an inability to speak or understand words. Non-speaking is therefore a more appropriate term for people who understand language but cannot speak.
Students with communication support needs have little or no speech, or no functional speech (e.g. echolalia). This can be as a result of significant language, sensory, physical and/or neurological disability, such as (but not limited to):
- Autism spectrum disorder
- Cerebral palsy
- Expressive/receptive language disorders
- Genetic disorders
- Global developmental delay
- Sensory processing challenges
- Traumatic/acquired brain injury
As with all students, the support needs of a student with communication support needs are very individual and dependent on a number of different factors, such as diagnosis, individual strengths and challenges, age, and current skill level.
Students with communication support needs may also have other support needs, such as physical disability, sensory processing challenges, or mental health related, that are not specifically addressed in this toolkit.