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Key Word Sign Explained

What is Key Word Sign?

Key Word Sign (KWS) is a communication system, sometimes referred to as an augmentative and alternative communication system. AAC refers to anything that helps us communicate alongside (or instead of) speech; things like body language, facial expression, pictures, or even a high tech talking device.

With Key Word Sign, we use hand signs to represent the main words in a sentence. It’s used alongside spoken words.

Isn’t that sign language?

Key Word Sign is different from Auslan, Australia’s sign language. Auslan is a complete language on its own. Key Word Sign accompanies spoken language. Unlike with Auslan, if you’re using KWS you don’t use a sign for every word, just the Key words.

Who is Key Word Sign for?

KWS can work for anyone who has different communication needs. This may include people who have Autism Spectrum Disorder or Down Syndrome. It can be used with little ones who haven’t started talking yet, or it can be used with adults who have never been introduced to sign systems before.

Will it stop my child from talking?

Not at all! KWS is used alongside spoken language to support expression and understanding. It is not used instead of talking, it’s used as well as talking.

How can it help?

KWS is a system that was designed with people who have communication delays or disorders, and people with disabilities in mind. Using our hands to communicate can provide us with a different way to learn the communication skills we need to make ourselves understood, and to understand the people around us.

How do you do it?

As you speak, you use your hands to make signs to represent the main words in the sentence. The most important words. For example, If you are saying-

            ‘I need you to come over here and help me’

You might only sign these words

            ‘I need you to come over here and help me’

Key Word Sign uses signs from Auslan, but Auslan is used in a very different way.

Who uses Key Word Sign?

You can receive training for KWS from a speech pathologist. Some schools and day programs teach and use KWS too. It’s a great idea to have everyone in your family to learn to use it, so you can all ‘speak the same language’!

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