What is Key Word Sign?

Key Word Sign (KWS) is the use of signs and natural gestures to support the communication and language development of children and adults with communication difficulties.

KWS is one of the most widely used strategies utilised by people of all ages who cannot communicate by speech alone.

KWS incorporates signs from the local deaf sign language (Auslan in Australia), but unlike Auslan users, we use speech with sign, and the signing used is more simplified.

KWS can help people understand what is being said to them, and can be a way of sending a message for someone who’s speech is unclear or still developing.

Features of Key Word Sign include:

  • Use of sign and speech at the same time
  • Sign the key words but say the whole sentence
  • Use of visual strategies including:
    • body language
    • natural gestures
    • facial expression
    • directionality and placement (these are features of sign production used in Auslan, and in natural gesture)
  • Some use of finger spelling

KWS works well alongside other forms of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) e.g. pictures in communication boards and books.

KWS products, resources and training are available to support the effective use of KWS.

Key Word Sign Australia acknowledges the Deaf community for the use of Auslan signs

Key Word Sign Australia is a business unit of Scope Australia, and we thank them for their support

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