Communications & interaction

Assistive Technology and Alternative and Augmentative Communication - AT/AAC Team

The AT/AAC team at Blackfriars:

  • Mr Chris Spender ICT Manager oversees Assistive technology and access to ICT. This can range from recording devices for written work, laptops, Neos, key guards etc to access to technology through Eye gaze or physical access using switches. 
  • Mr Mark Allcock is a Speech Therapist that we employ privately one day a week and who is our Speech and Language Learning Supervisor. Mark can oversee speech programmes or help to embed communication systems into the classroom. 
  • Ms Aimee Fairfull NHS Speech Therapist who visits once a week. The team and Aimee work closely together on meeting the needs of pupils and sharing information with staff. 

The team give the staff appropriate training on access or communication systems as well as working very closely with parents, physios, OTs and ACT.

AAC Approaches at Blackfriars

  • a definition of AAC within Blackfriars e.g.


The term 'AAC', an abbreviation of Augmentative and Alternative Communication, refers to any intervention which enhances a pupil's ability to express his or her needs and desires. As such it can encompass no tech strategies such as the use of Makaton signing, low tech approaches such as the use of symbols and simple switches and high tech equipment which has a voice output.

  • a description of the AAC population within Blackfriars

Children who's verbal communication has not progressed sufficiently that they can convey their thoughts in a timely and effective manner require consideration for an AAC intervention. Such difficulties can come about for a wide variety of reasons including physical challenges impacting on the clear production of speech, learning difficulties resulting in language not being acquired in the typical fashion or a sensory loss such as hearing impairment. Blackfriars has a number of children with these challenges and sometimes where several factors coexist in the same child.

At Blackfriars we have a holistic approach to communication and provide a language and symbol rich environment where pupils can use a variety of approaches to develop their communication skills and have a powerful ‘voice’ in and out of school.

Approaches to communication include:

  • facial gestures
  • vocalisations
  • eye pointing – etran – eye gaze technology
  • fist pointing
  • objects of reference
  • symbols and photos
  • PECs – Picture Exchange Communication System
  • Communication books
  • Personal Passports
  • PODD
  • Manual Auditory Scanning
  • Makaton and BSL
  • Electronic communication aids and use of ipads