Health and Social Care

Putting inclusive communications at the heart of the National Care Service

November 30, 2022 by No Comments | Category National Care Service

The National Care Service will support a diverse range of people across Scotland. It is important we work with as wide a range of people as possible whilst designing the NCS, to ensure all needs and experiences are captured. That is why we are learning about different communication needs to ensure we are inclusive.  

Scottish Government user researchers supported a project earlier this year to develop the policy and support for people in Scotland who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).  

I want to share what we learned to help anyone else working with people with similar needs in the future. 

What is Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC)? 

AAC is a range of strategies and tools to help people who struggle with their speech to communicate as effectively as possible, in as many situations as possible. This can range from letter or pictures boards to specialist computer-based systems. 

Who uses AAC? 

Many people with disabilities and health conditions in Scotland use AAC. We met people with a wide range of conditions such as: cerebral palsy, autism, speech impacted by cancer surgery, speech impacted by stroke and rare genetic syndromes such as Rett syndrome. 

What we learned about working with people who use AAC  

  • Help from a specialist is invaluable when working with needs you don’t understand or have experience with
  • Plan for conversations to take longer than ‘usual’
  • Prepare for a slower pace of conversation
  • Longer conversations can be quite tiring for some participants, so share as much information in advance  

We had to adjust our approach to meet a broad range of communication needs 

Working with the Speech and Language therapist taught us how much we design our work around presuming everyone is comfortable or able to answer open questions. She advised that for some participants open questions could be really challenging to answer. Instead some people need to be provided with options they could respond with, a bit like how you might structure questions in a survey. 

Talking about different communication needs in theory is quite different from doing it in practice. Ultimately, it is okay to tell the person you’re speaking with that you have not worked with an AAC user before, that you are nervous and to ask for honest feedback on how you did. 

We will continue to learn about different communication needs to ensure we are being as inclusive as possible whilst designing the National Care Service.  


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