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SPHY207 Speech Pathology Practice 2B

Unit rationale, description and aim

Multimodal communication options can facilitate communicative participation, inclusion and quality of life for adults and children with complex communication needs. As such, multimodal communication is a designated Range of Practice Area (RoPA) in which speech pathology students are expected to demonstrate competency in order to meet Entry Level requirements of the profession.

This unit will explore the use of multimodal communication, including oral, manual, augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) and assistive technology (AT) methods in supporting individuals with communication difficulties, including individuals with developmental disability and acquired disability across any stage of the lifespan. Students will learn to select and support suitable communication methods for different individuals by applying the principle of ‘feature matching’ and will consider the unique needs of different populations. 

Students will gain skills in the collaboration process required to develop and use communication devices and resources, as well as practical skills in the design and implementation of ‘low technology’ communication systems and introductory key word signing skills. The aim of this unit is to equip speech pathology students with the knowledge, understanding and skills they will need to assess, prescribe and implement multimodal communication options with individuals across the lifespan who have communication difficulties.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

On successful completion of this unit, students should be able to:

LO1 - Discuss the role of the speech pathologist, other allied health professionals and members of the community in supporting participation for people with a disability and complex communication needs (GA1, GA5);

LO2 - Analyse the impact of culture, attitudes, values and beliefs on multimodal communication assessment, intervention, and outcomes measurement for people with a disability and complex communication needs (GA3, GA5, GA9);

LO3 - Design and utilise aided and unaided augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies (e.g. symbol boards, speech generating devices, key word sign) (GA5; GA9; GA10)

LO4 - Construct collaborative assessment/intervention plans that reflect person-centred and evidence based approaches to the multimodal communication and communicative participation needs of individuals across the lifespan (GA1, GA5, GA9);

Graduate attributes

GA1 - demonstrate respect for the dignity of each individual and for human diversity 

GA3 - apply ethical perspectives in informed decision making

GA5 - Demonstrate values, knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to the discipline and/or profession

GA9 - demonstrate effective communication in oral and written English language and visual media 

GA10 - utilise information and communication and other relevant technologies effectively.


Topics will include:

Background to multimodal communication          

  • Contexts of clinical practice 
  • Working within an inter-professional team to support the individual requiring a multimodal system
  • International Classification of Functioning (ICF) applied to the assessment, management and ongoing support of an individual requiring a multimodal system
  • Social and psychological impact of utilizing multimodal systems – listening to the individual and their supports
  • Ethical approaches to multimodal communication

Supporting individuals to communicate and participate in their communities

  • Communication as a ‘basic human right’
  • Community capacity building - integration of multimodal communication into the community
  • Communication accessible environments – universal access
  • Education and advocacy about multimodal communication
  • Accessibility of written language – supporting individuals to access information in multimodal formats 


  • Developmental, progressive, and acquired communication disorders that may result in an individual utilizing multimodal communication options
  • Identifying and understanding the needs and wants of the individual regarding multimodal communication
  • Assessing capacity and suitability of options (cognitive, language, speech, physical and personal considerations)
  • Common assessment tools and key areas of assessment
  • Developing person-centred and functional goals relating to communication and participation

Intervention and ongoing support 

  • Integration of assessment information, individual choices, and best evidence to develop a management plan
  • Introduction to ethical issues surrounding the assessment and implementation of multimodal communication options
  • Supporting individuals to maximize meaningful communication within their local and community environments
  • Range of multimodal communication options
  • Introductory workshop in use of key word sign
  • Introduction and development of low technology communication aids (e.g. chat books, choice books/charts, talking mats)
  • Introduction to high technology communication aids (e.g. Text based devices; Semantic Compaction Devices; Mobile technologies e.g.  iPad)– their benefits and limitations, funding options
  • Identification and use of appropriate outcome measures

Multimodal communication needs of specific populations

  • Understanding different needs of different individuals and population groups
  • Special considerations 
  • acquired disorders e.g. stroke, cognitive communication disorders
  • developmental disorders e.g. autism spectrum disorders, cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, social communication disorders
  • progressive disorders e.g. Motor Neuron Disease, Palliative care 
  • Cultural and linguistic considerations in multimodal communication decision making 

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

This unit utilises a blended learning or multimode approach and as such teaching and learning strategies will include a combination of face to face lectures and pre-recorded mini lectures, online case-based modules and face to face tutorials. A total of 150 hours of focussed learning is expected for this unit.   

The blended approach to learning offers students multiple modalities within which to engage with content and key competencies and facilitate development of both self-directed and collaborative learning strategies. Face to face lectures provide students with an opportunity to engage with the lecturer and explore challenging concepts through a discussion based approach. As face to face lectures are delivered via national video conference, students from different campuses will be able to interact with each other within the session and benefit from peer learning opportunities. Pre-recorded mini lectures allow students to explore core theoretical constructs in their own time and place prior to attending face to face tutorial sessions. The ‘mini-lecture’ format is considered a best practice example of content curation that helps to maximise focus and retention of foundational information and allows students to revisit and consolidate their understanding of essential concepts as often as they require. Online, self-directed modules provide students with flexibility of time, space and place to engage with interactive case-based content in which theoretical concepts are modelled. This mode also allows students to organise and individualise their own learning needs in light of concomitant academic and professional placement requirements. Face to face tutorials will encourage students to apply theoretical content of the unit by engaging in individual and small group activities. Case-based teaching and learning affords an authentic means for students to better understand and explore the assessment, management and support process required for individuals who use multimodal communication strategies, including Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). Finally, as part of their face to face tutorials, students will complete an authentic, industry based qualification in the form of a Basic Key Word Sign Certificate. This opportunity allows students to engage in problem solving and skill development and demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning that is required for successful professional practice. 

Assessment strategy and rationale

There are 3 weighted assessment tasks within SPHY308 and one ungraded hurdle.

The Ungraded Hurdle  is participation in a Key Word Sign workshop that encourages students to begin to apply technical skills in the use of aided and unaided multimodal communication strategies. This assessment aligns with CBOS Unit 7: Lifelong Learning and Reflective Practice.

Assessment 1 requires students to explain assessment and intervention options for individuals with complex communciation needs in a group presentation format. This will enable students to receive formative feedback on their understanding and application of content, before they are required to demonstrate this in indpendent case-based tasks. This assessment aligns with CBOS Units 1 through to 4 (Assessment, Analysis and Interpretation, Planning and Implementing Evidence-Based Practice).

Assessment 2 directly addresses students’ ability to plan assessment, analyse and interpret assessment data and to discuss the role of the speech pathologist, inter professional team members and family members in supporting the communication and participation of an individual who uses multimodal communication. Students will also have an opportunity to show their understanding of cultural and ethical factors that influence clinical decision making. This assessment aligns with CBOS Unit 1: Assessment; Unit 2: Analysis and Interpretation and Unit 3: Planning evidence-based speech pathology practice.

Assessment 3 addresses student’s ability to integrate knowledge, understanding and application of discipline specific skills relating to multi-modal communciation. Students will develop an individualized assessment/management plan and design and create a communication system suitable for the specific needs of an individual. This assessment will require students to demonstrate competency with a range of technologies, including communication software. This assessment aligns with CBOS Unit 3: Planning evidence-based speech pathology practice and Unit 4: Implementation of speech pathology practice. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning OutcomesGraduate Attributes

Ungraded Hurdle: Key Word Sign Basic Workshop

Students demonstrate capacity to utilise basic key word sign.

Ungraded Hurdle


GA5, GA9, GA10

Assessment 1 (Group presentations):

Students explain assessment and intervention options for individuals with complex communication needs.


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA3, GA5, GA9

Assessment 2 (Case study):

Students demonstrate capacity to plan assessment, analyse and interpret assessment data and select an appropriate multimodal communication system.


LO1, LO2

GA1, GA3, GA5, GA9

Assessment 3 (Developing MMC systems)

Students demonstrate capacity to develop multi-modal communication systems for individuals with complex communication needs.


LO1, LO3, LO4

GA1, GA5, GA9, GA10

In order to successfully complete this unit, students must submit and make a credible attempt at all assessment tasks and are required to:

- obtain a cumulative mark that is equal to or greater than 50% of the possible marks available 

Representative texts and references

Beukelman, D. R. & Mirenda, P. (2012). Augmentative and alternative communication: Supporting children and adults with complex communication needs (4th ed.). Paul H brookes.

Bloomberg, K., West, D., & Johnson, H. (2004). InterAACtion- Strategies for intentional and unintentional communicators. Communication Resource Centre, Scope.

Caithness, Brownlie & Bloomberg (2012). Getting started with key word sign. Special Education Centre

Lancioni, G.E., & Singh, N.N. (Eds). (2014). Assistive technologies for people with diverse abilities. Springer

Light, J.C., Beukelman, D.R., & Reichle, J. (2003). Communicative competence for individuals who use AAC: From research to effective practice. Paul. H. Brookes.

McVilly, K, R. (2002). Positive Behaviour Support for people with intellectual disability: Evidence-based practice, promoting quality of life. The Australian Society for the Study of Intellectual Disability Inc.

Odom, S.L., Horner, R.H., Snell, M.E., & Blacher, J. (Eds). (2007). Handbook of developmental disabilities. The Guildford Press.

Reichle, J., Beukelman, D.R., & Light, J.C. (Eds). (2002). Exemplary practices for beginning communicators: Implications for AAC. Paul. H. Brookes.

Schlosser, R. (2003). The efficacy of Augmentative and Alternative Communication: Toward evidence –based practice. Elsevier Science.

Volkmar, F., Paul, R., Klin, A., & D. J. Cohen (Eds.). (2005). Handbook of autism and pervasive developmental disorders: Vol. 1. Diagnosis, development, neurobiology, and behavior. Wiley. 

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