Impact Case Study

Bringing Augmentative and Alternative Communication to a bigger audience

AAC is a means of communicating that supports impaired speech and handwriting. University research raised AAC awareness, allowing more to benefit.

The problem

316,000 people need AAC support in the UK (around 0.05% of the population). Many of these are missing out on specialist support, including the use of powered communication aids.

Our researchers have raised awareness of AAC and contributed significantly to increasing funding, and making support services more available.

What we did

In 2004, university researchers Juliet Goldbart and Julie Marshall, co-authored a Cochrane review that uncovered inconsistency in the ways in which communication intervention data was being gathered. This resulted in a case study template being adopted for academics.

In 2009, Janice Murray, in partnership with Sheffield University, Barnsley Hospital NHS Trust and Communication Matters, led a £0.5M Big Lottery project to produce an AAC website as well as a case study database and research network.

Murray used the previous 2004 Manchester Metropolitan research to design the case study template and led a collaborative process to ensure that research met the needs of the communities most affected by AAC.

“The website and the case study template are essential for ensuring continued investment by the Government in AAC services and provision."

Why it matters

The university’s lead role in the Big Lottery funded Communication-Matters Research Matters project resulted in the development of two products: the AAC Knowledge website and The AAC case study template and database.

The case study template now informs abstract submissions for the annual International Communication Matters’ Conference. Janice Murray also operates as a reviewer of presentation submissions.

The case study database has been accessed by both national and international researchers in the field to support data collection/analysis. The AAC Knowledge website has generated 5000 unique hits since going live in December 2012.

The International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication officially recognised the website across its network of 50 countries.

"The AAC knowledge website is a ground breaking tool. This was a particularly timely piece of work in the light of changing policy with regard to how AAC services will be delivered in the future.”

(Chair of national AAC charity, Communication Matters).

The university maintains the content on the AAC Knowledge website making us the recognised home of AAC knowledge and research.

Manchester Metropolitan research has increased recognition for AAC amongst UK policy makers leading to an additional £6.5M UK Government investment in AAC services.

In 2008, John Bercow, published a “Review of services for children and young people (0-19 years) with speech, language and communication needs”.

The review led to the appointment of a Communication Champion who worked alongside university researcher Murray to map services and provision required for AAC in England and Wales. In March 2012, Murray led a House of Lords reception that resulted in on-going discussions with politicians.

Discussions led to £2.5 million DfE grants for AAC services in England and Wales, followed up with a £4 M pot for Scotland.

Specialist communication aid services are now commissioned by NHS England, delivering high cost services to 1 in 2000 people including 8,627 children and young people under 25 years as potential beneficiaries. These services are unique in achieving an additional £15m recurrent Government investment from 2014.

Recognition from this case study has led to Murray undertaking consultancy for NHS education Scotland in 2015 on the approval of 15 identified specialist AAC services awarded their share of £15 funding. This also resulted in a team development of online learning modules targeting universal employees to raise awareness of AAC assessment. Further consultancy has involved the delivery of a Manchester Metropolitan existing MSc module in AAC assessment and three bespoke training days to emergency service and social work employees, plus emerging specialist SLTs which is a groundbreaking development.

Featured Researcher

Janice Murray

Janice is Head of Speech Pathology and Therapy. She leads on post graduate opportunities for Speech and Language Therapists.

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Phone 0161 247 2570