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The Centre for Augmentative & Alternative Communication is committed to making a difference in the communication and life-skills of people with severe disabilities, and in particular those with complex communication needs, by:
  • Multi-professional and community training
  • Research in the fields of severe disabilities, early childhood intervention and augmentative & alternative communication
  • Influencing policy making impacting on the lives of people with severe disabilities.
What is AAcia
Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies are used by people to describe the way people supplement their communication when they can not speak clearly enough to be understood by those around them. These strategies include a wide range of communication methods ranging from gestures and communication boards to assistive communication devices. The basic premise of AAC is: "That a person communicates is much more important than how s/he communicates"
Is there a need for Augmentative & Alternative Communication Intervention in South Africa?

Internationally it is estimated that 1,5-2% of the general school population is in need of AAC services. In addition, it is known that approximately 20% of all people with little or no functional speech is cognitively within normal limits.

In South Africa the prevalence of little or no functional speech (LNFS) seems much higher than in other Western countries: A study within the greater Pretoria, for example, showed that 39% of all children in schools for children with severe disabilities could be regarded as having LNFS.

What is it like to have a severe communication disorder?

These quotes illustrate the drastic effects that the inability to communicate can have on an individuals life.
"I know what it is like to be fed potatoes all my life. After all, potatoes are such good basic food for everyday, easy to fix in many different ways. I hate potatoes! But then, who knew that but me? I know what it is like to be dressed in reds and blues when my favourite colours are mint greens, lemon yellows, and pinks. I mean can you really imagine?"
Sara Brothers (1991, p.59)
"If you want to know what it is like to be unable to speak, there is a way. Go to a party and don't talk. Play mute. Use your hands if you wish but don't use paper and pencil. Paper and pencil are not always handy for a mute person. Here is what you will find: people talking; talking behind, beside, around, over under and through, and even for you. But never with you. You are ignored until finally you feel like a piece of furniture." Rick Creech
(Musselwhite & St Louis, 1988, p104)

Who can benefit from Augmentative or Alternative Communication?
  • Anyone who is not able to communicate effectively using speech (Non Verbal)
  • People with intellectual disabilities
  • Anyone who has some speech but requires an augmentative device for purposes of writing or carrying on long conversations.

Those who would benefit from AAC include:
  • People who are physically disabled
  • People with autistic tendencies
  • People with developmental delays
  • People with dual sensory impairments e.g vision and hearing

Why use Augmentative or Alternative forms of Communication?

To give every individual ways to express needs and wants, to share their feelings, thoughts and ideas to those with whom they interact.

What are some of the facts about Augmentative & Alternative Communication?

AAC communication is a multi disciplinary field and involves the user, parents as well professionals who they are working with e.g. speech therapy, occupational therapy or physiotherapy.

Assessment should be ongoing to reevaluate and monitor the specific needs of the individual client.

The use of augmentative or alternative communication is multimodal in that no one system will be adequate for all communication needs in all settings/environments.

In order for intervention to be effective it should be a collaborative effort with the client and all those with whom s/he interacts.

About Us

What do we do?

Most of the CAAC main activities are in disadvantaged areas where training is conducted at preschool, primary and secondary levels as well as other institutions to support inclusion of children with severe disabilities into the educational and employment context. Activities focus on training as well as material and technology development to support inclusion of children and adults with severe communication disabilities into communities


In the 15 years of the existence of the CAAC, staff has trained over 6 400 AAC users, parents, teachers and therapists in facilitating communication with severe disabilities. Follow-up visits to contexts confirmed that the CAAC has reached over 8000 children, youth and adults through training of families, community leaders and professionals. Activities include training in communities as well as five post-graduate programs in the fields of early childhood intervention, severe disabilities and AAC.

Leadership and advocacy

The CAAC recently embarked on a national project to assist youth with severe disabilities in getting access to communication and information technology, called the Fofa Project. This project assists young people to "speak for themselves" and facilitate their access to employment.

Team consultations

The CAAC staff supports people with LNFS, their families and professional teams by conducting consultations where they collaboratively problem-solve issues related to communication and independent functioning within the communities.

Open days

The CAAC has open days once a month to provide people with severe communication problems, their families and professionals with the opportunity to be exposed to current high and low technology solutions for people with little or no functional speech.


The CAAC staff and students are engaged on an ongoing basis in research in the fields of AAC, severe disabilities and early childhood intervention

Our mission

We impact the lives of individuals and families by multi-professional training and research in:
  • AAC and severe disabilities
  • Early childhood intervention
  • Technologies for communication
  • Policy implementation

Our Values

  • New sights, new thoughts, new questions
  • If it is worth doing, it is worth doing well
  • Diverse individuals, collective strength
  • Authenticity, integrity, accountabilty

General Approach

The Centre for AAC regards the following as major priorities in terms of intervention and rehabilitation:
  • Multidisciplinary research and training focusing on the development of the fields of Augmentative & Alternative Communication (AAC), Severe Disabilities (SD) and Early Intervention (EI). This is intended to extend and enrich the fields of AAC and SD and feed back expertise to the different disciplines primarily involved in intervention.
  • The provision of training, research and service delivery conducted within the framework of national priorities and the mission of the University of Pretoria. Although the focus is on communication, the training and research focuses are broader in order to facilitate implementation of strategies in real life contexts. The primary domains focused on are:
    • Team work and collaborative problem Solving
    • Early childhood intervention
    • Education for all
    • Life-skill training
    • Employment for people with disabilities
    • Assistive Technology for people with severe disabilities
    • Expertise in the field of AAC technology; From communication devices to environmental control systems.
    • Distance education: Multi-media programs; Web-based training are used to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge and skills that will ultimately lead to the inclusion of people with severe disabilities into society.
    • Inter-institutional collaboration both national and international with the aim to promote research excellence and capacity building in the fields of AAC and Severe disabilities Community Development; Networking with community members and stakeholders to provide training, research and service delivery.

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Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communitcation
Tel: +27 012 420-2001
Fax: +27 012 420-4389
E-mail: Prof. E Alant
Postal Address

Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communitcation
University of Pretoria
Cnr of Lynwood and Roper Street
Pretoria 0002
South Africa

Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communitcation
Tel: +27 012 420-2001
Fax: +27 012 420-4389
E-mail: Prof. E Alant
Postal Address

Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communitcation
University of Pretoria
Cnr of Lynwood and Roper Street
Pretoria 0002
South Africa