Will using Key Word Sign stop my child from talking?

No. Speech is the most effective and efficient way of communicating with others and we are all surrounded by people speaking. Therefore, no matter what type of alternative strategy we use with someone, they will continue to develop speech if that is possible for them.
We also know from research that using KWS or other forms of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) will enable a child or adult with communication difficulties to communicate more effectively with others.

Should I only use signing and not other forms of Augmentative and Alternative Communication?

No. Using Key Word Sign is just one way children and adults who have communication difficulties can communicate. It is also useful for most people who need help understanding language.
Key Word Sign may not meet all the communication needs of all people across their daily environment and routines. To meet these different communication needs, the child or adult may need to use a combination of strategies, such as using pictures, photos or objects. In most situations, sign and gesture can be used in combination with these other approaches.

Won’t using signs make my child look different?

Using Key Word Signs are a natural extension of using gestures. Signs are often very similar to the gestures we use every day when we talk. However, your child may look a little different because s/he is using more gestures than other people would normally.
People may look at a person combining speech and signs but often it is because they are interested or impressed.

What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)?

AAC refers to all the ways we communicate without using speech. We all use forms of AAC every day. You use AAC when you use facial expressions or gestures instead of talking. You use AAC when you write a note and pass it to a friend or coworker, send a text or an email. We may not realize how often we communicate without talking.

People with more severe speech or language problems may need AAC to help them communicate. Some may use it all the time. Others may say some words but use AAC for longer sentences or with people they don’t know well. AAC can help in school, at work, and when talking with friends and family. Key Word Sign is a form of AAC. Other forms are communication books or boards, or “high-tech” tools such as an app or computer program that will speak when a message is created with text or pictures.

How many signs do I need to learn before I can start using signs with someone?

You don’t need to be an expert in using signs or know a lot of signs before you can start. You are already using a form of signing now with your use of natural gesture. It is important to select a few signs to start with that are important for the child or adult who you are using the signs with. Think about their interests, what they want to communicate about and what activities they normally participate in – that will give you a good idea of the signs that would be helpful when you are starting.

I’ve been using Key Word Sign for weeks and my child hasn’t started using them. Should I stop signing and try something else?

It is sometimes difficult to keep motivated to use signing when the child or adult you are trying to communicate with is not responding or learning to use the signs. Don’t give up!
It is important to realise that sometimes it takes months of being exposed to the signs before we can expect someone to be able to use it.

I work with some adults who use a bit of KWS – how can I help them to communicate better?

One of the best things you can do is learn to sign with them!
Many adults with communication disabilities have learned to use KWS at school, but as adults are often supported by workers who don’t know or understand signs, so they use less and less signs themselves.
If you sign when you are talking with them, they will start to use more and more sign with you. You will understand more of what they are trying to say, and often be surprised by how much they can say!

Are signs the same everywhere in the world?

No, each country has its own sign language!
In America they use signs from American Sign Language (ASL), in England they use British Sign Language (BSL) and of course, in Australia we use Australian Sign Language (Auslan).
Key Word Sign is used in many different countries, and the signs used are always from the host country’s Deaf sign language. There are sometimes similarities between signs from different countries, but also large differences. If you look up examples of signs on YouTube, it’s important to check which country the signs are from.

How can I look up the signs?

You can look up signs in a number of ways.
When you do a workshop you will be given the book “Getting Started with Key Word Sign” (Auslan edition) which is a useful starting place.
The Key Word Sign Australia App is a great resource to learn many more signs, see videos of the core vocabulary of signs, and make printable resources. For an even wider library of signs, go to Auslan Sign Bank.
There are also a number of other Australian based Key Word Sign resources which you can purchase from the online Scope shop.

What apps are available on mobile tablets?

The Key Word Sign Australia App (for iPad only) is available from the Apple Store. Other Apps using Auslan signs are included here. 

Where can I get images of signs to print?

The Key Word Sign App has line drawing images of Auslan signs that you can print out. You can select signs that are relevant to a particular topic or category.
You can also look under ‘free resources’ on this site for some ready-made handouts.

How can I find a workshop to attend?

Check your state’s Facebook page or website or email your state contact.

Some states offer centralised workshops or you can organise your own local workshop for home, school, kinder, crèche, work or day service.

OR contact us at KWSA: keywordsignaustralia@scopeaust.org.au and we’ll do our best to help.

Want to know more?

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