Members of CATCH will be celebrating the European Day of Speech and Language Therapy (March 6) by raising awareness about communication disorders at the University of Sheffield’s Students’ Union.

They have teamed up with students from the Department of Human Communication Sciences and to highlight this year’s theme – augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). AAC refers to different communication methods that can be used to support people of all ages who find it difficult to understand and express themselves using speech.

Visitors to the stalls within the Students’ Union will be able to find out about the latest research and equipment available. They can also experience using a variety of AAC systems to order cakes and sandwiches. Leading provider of touch and eye tracking based assistive technology hardware and software, Tobii Dynaxox, will be showcasing the systems available for those with communication and mobility challenges

People may have these communication difficulties due to a lifelong condition, such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disability or autism spectrum disorder. A communication disability can also be caused by health conditions including stroke, brain injury, Motor Neuron Disease and Parkinson’s disease.

AAC covers a wide range of techniques which support or replace spoken communication. These include picture communication boards, letter boards, signing, pointing to symbols or objects and speech generating devices.

We all use AAC when we use gestures, facial expressions, or images like emojis to communicate. However, for people with severe communication difficulties, using AAC might be the only way to support them to express their needs, make decisions and participate in daily activities. AAC can help to improve their quality of life.

Remember, a speech disability is not the same as having nothing to say!