Severe Communication Impairment

The Anne McDonald Centre​ works with people who have
Severe Communication Impairment
(people with little or no functional speech)
Complex Communication Needs.

Communication is the passing of information from one person to another by any means - speech, facial expression, hand signs and gestures, alphabet boards, video displays, computers that talk, writing and typing, picture cards etc etc.
All people, whatever their age, education, or ability, need to communicate.

Individuals are described as having Severe Communication Impairment (SCI)  and/or Complex Communication Needs (CCN) when their speech and handwriting are insufficient to meet their communication needs. The terms are usually used in relation to people with no speech or very little intelligible speech, but it may also be applied to people whose speech, while clear and fluent, is still not meaningful or representative of their real thoughts, for example, people whose speech is echolalic.

 Most people whose speech is severely impaired also have difficulty with handwriting.

 People with SCI and hand function impairments are particularly vulnerable to having their cognitive abilities underestimated owing to the dependence of standardized intelligence tests on speech and hand skills. People with SCI who achieve effective communication aid use may reveal previously unsuspected competencies.

Some people with SCI have picked up some reading skills, either in literacy classes or from incidental exposure to written language. These skills may have gone unrecognized because of the person's expressive impairments.

Many children with SCI find themselves caught in a downwards spiral: assessed as significantly intellectually impaired as a result of their speech and motor impairments, they are placed in special schools where their speech and motor impairments are seen as being the unavoidable corollary of their intellectual impairments. They are unlikely to receive an occupational therapy assessment, and speech therapy is likely to be at a premium. The combined effect of continued failure (after all, the student does not have the basic output skills necessary for success), low expectations and lack of therapy is likely to be deterioration or stagnation rather than improvement. The student's behaviour is often as poor as their academic performance.

As accurate cognitive assessment of students with severe expressive problems is very difficult, no student should be excluded from a communication training programme on the basis of previous negative assessments.  Often communication training is a prerequisite for accurate assessment.  Always give the student the benefit of the doubt.

 The Anne McDonald Centre tries to enable children and adults with severe communication impairment - to help them to develop the communication skills needed for them to achieve their own goals and be fully participating members of society.

Anne McDonald Centre. 538 Dandenong Road, Caulfield 3162 Victoria, Australia Ph: 03 9509 6324, Fax: 03 9509 6321
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