February 2020 Issue 19
Supporting staff and students to achieve their full potential
(Est. 1968)
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Young man in wheelchair looking at womanDear CENMAC Community,

We would like to take the opportunity to introduce and welcome Abdi Omar to our CENMAC team! Abdi is a brilliant inspirational speaker and we are thrilled he has agreed to work one day a month to inspire and mentor some of our CENMAC students. Abdi has already had a very positive impact here at Charlton Park Academy and I’m sure this will continue with many more students.

In the words of Abdi “Why limit yourself when you are limitless.”

Teaching literacy to students who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is an area that can challenge us all. Zoë and Sarah have used the February newsletter to share some of the key information and resources which can help. If you would like to find out more or need support then please do ask us or even better come along to Communication Works 2020 to learn more.

Please do add the 14 May into your diaries for Communication Works 2020 as it will be a day packed with lots of opportunities to learn about assistive technology for all. 

Kathryn Stowell
Team Leader


Literacy and AAC

Literacy Development


The term AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) includes both strategies and equipment that support or replace speech. It might involve using your body e.g. signing, facial expression/gesture (unaided AAC) or using equipment e.g. an alphabet chart or keyboard, a symbol chart, a simple talking button or a more complex voice output communication aid (aided AAC). 

Text extracted from Ace Centre AAC Books


Literacy, the ability to read and write in a desired language, is an important aspect of the educational process for all. 

Literacy is especially important for AAC users because literacy skills provide a means of educational learning and assessment, promote vocational opportunities, boost self-expression and facilitate independent living (Light & Kent-Wash, 2003).   

Light and Kent-Walsh (2003) indicate most AAC users experience difficulties in literacy development which may persist into adulthood.   

It is therefore crucial to incorporate opportunities for literacy learning into the educational environment for AAC users. 

Image (c)

Click on the image or HERE to attempt the test below which simulates literacy difficulties. The vocabulary on the grid is extracted from the exhibits at a Swedish museum. Count the number of familiar words and those you may be able to guess then click on the words to access the symbols.   

Chart of words

Text extracted from: 

Teaching Literacy Skills

“Teaching literacy skills is the single most empowering thing that we can do for individuals who require AAC”
(Peter Lindsay, 1990) 

Assistiveware logo
Image of teacher and young child with device

Image (c) AssistiveWare

AssistiveWare do not currently offer any literacy programmes. The company has however completed an article containing a list of ideas and directs the reader to third party resources:


Liberator logo

AAC Language Lab (

The site is a collection of activity ideas, session plans (which target specific language functions or goals) and other downloadable resources. Each session plan not only has activities to target expressive language but also activities to target reading and writing skills. This ensures that whilst working on language skills these other areas can also be addressed which enriches the learning experience and helps to consolidate the skills learned across areas.  

In addition – available through the AAC Language Lab is Liberator's ‘Literacy Through ..’ programme. ‘Literacy Through..’ is a beginning systematic, sequential phonics programme that also teaches word identification, spelling and core icon sequences in the Unity 84/60 Sequenced and LAMP Words for Life Full vocabularies.  

Both the literacy and communication instruction is designed to teach learners strategies they can use to read, spell and say unfamiliar words. From the beginning, the emphasis is on the generalisation and transfer of known to the unknown. Learners progress through a carefully sequenced set of 150 lessons that support mastery over time rather than mastery as each word, skill and strategy is introduced. The programme is designed to help learners begin to think like readers, spellers and users of AAC.   

The instructional programme is the result of more than a decade of collaboration between the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bruce Baker of Semantic Compaction, and PRC-Saltillo.  

  • Research backing the programme is available on the AAC Language Lab by clicking here.  

  • The ‘Literacy Through..’ programme can be accessed here.  

Please note – some session plans are available free of charge on the AAC Language Lab and some are available as part of a subscription. The ‘Literacy Through..’ programme is also available as part of the subscription which is £19.95 for a year’s subscription.  

Mark Street  
AAC Consultant Manager, Liberator
Boy looking at screen

Look to Read: Look to Read software enables children with disabilities to experience and enjoy books independently. It supports early literacy skills, such as choosing a book and learning that text flows from left to right as well as discovering phonics and a love of reading. 
Whether users are just starting out or already have some literacy, each book is fully accessible to any access method, including eye gaze, switch and touch and includes exciting content and learning activities to help consolidate learning. Look to Read chat grids are also designed to support early communication about the books, using core vocabulary combined with key words from the story.  

Photographs (c)

Boy in wheelchair looking at screen

Super Core: Super Core is a symbol-based core vocabulary that includes support for literacy development with the following features: 

  • Phonetic keyboard to explore letters and sounds  

  • Selective use of symbols to encourage whole word learning for words that are harder to represent using symbols (e.g. the, a, of, but)  

  • Reading is emphasised throughout Super Core with reading grids in daily and play activities and school grids.  

  • Story book vocabulary and phrases alongside core words  


Kerry Vacara 
AAC Implementation Manager, Smartbox 

Techess logo

The Score system by Techcess is both paper and power-based and can be used for teaching language and literacy. Implementation plans for teaching in the classroom can also be supplied. 


 Mind Express logo
Mind Express is also available with Phonics for All which is very  
useful for teaching literacy. 

Ian Foulger  
AAC Manager, Techcess 

Screen image of simple words
Image (c) Techess

Tobii Dynavox logo

Reading Avenue home page on youtube

Support all your students in becoming readers with this accessible and comprehensive foundational literacy curriculum. Delivered free with Boardmaker Online, Reading Avenue empowers teachers to deliver comprehensive instruction that includes the foundational instructional routines that address language, literacy, and communication in an integrated comprehensive, accessible and differentiated manner – all without deep knowledge or extensive training.

Reading Avenue follows a path that builds foundational literacy skills with engaging topics and interactive instruction that is provided in three differentiated levels for all beginners. It was designed to engage students in language-driven literacy instruction while providing an implementation model for teachers that is intuitive and easy to execute. It has bundled lessons with predictable instructional routines and teacher guides providing the what, how, why, and when of instruction that helps students connect their knowledge of language and literacy in ways that mutually reinforce each other. [Read more ...]

Reading Avenue ... READ MORE ...

Logo for Reading Wise


When she spoke, the audience was rapt. You rarely go to a conference and sense an electric atmosphere, when the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. But this was one of those times.

Woman and child at computer   Symbols for sounds

ReadingWise (c) photography by David McHug

Presenting to an audience of literacy coordinators, Laura was outlining the impact of ReadingWise on a group of 6 thirteen-year-old young people. These were young people with specific learning difficulties; those that life had dealt a tough hand; those that had not responded to the LA-wide literacy interventions. At the school level, expectations were low. Their school-path seemed pre-ordained: poor outcomes and little hope of educational success.

The LA-wide approach to improving literacy was a ‘chalk-and-talk’ style literacy intervention with a trained teacher delivering to groups of struggling readers. Word on the street was that the accompanying boxes of books were more often used to hold doors open than to actually deliver the programme - it was not popular either with students or staff.

As Laura described the young people’s background, looks of recognition were evident among the audience. Which literacy coordinator or SENCO doesn’t look after young people for whom chances are limited – but for whom they hold out that hope? They champion these children, as many of you reading this do. [Read more ...]



What are Core Words?
Click HERE to read.

Teaching Core Words?
Click HERE to read.

Literacy and Unaided AAC 

Makaton symbols and signs to support comprehension and enjoyment of books 

The Snail and the Whale book cover

The Snail and the Whale
by Julia Donaldson 



The Bus Is For Us book cover
The Bus is for Us
by Michael Rosen 


Shhh book cover

by Barroux 



Susan Laughs book cover

Susan Laughs

by Jeanne Willis and Tony Ross 


Literacy and Aided AAC


While aided supports (such as alphabet charts and keyboards) are an obvious tool for those who are literate (as they enable the user to generate words and phrases spontaneously), such supports are also highly recommended to be used alongside a symbol-based communication book or system for those at the very earliest stages of literacy. Alphabet charts and keyboards can be a great way to support early exploration of speech sounds and spelling, particularly for those who find holding a pencil more difficult. 

If you are interested in finding out more about this, Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver at the Center for Literacy and Disability Studies in North Carolina have done a lot of work in this area – see 

For AAC users who have a significant visual impairment, but are able to point directly to letters, alphabet charts and keyboards can also be constructed using either alphabet-based tactile codes like Moon ( or Braille ( When constructing a tactile alphabet chart or keyboard, it is important to show the corresponding print letter alongside the raised letter to assist the communication partner in interpreting the message.  

Text extracted from Ace Centre AAC Books

Literacy Project

Young girl in wheelchairLillie-Ann, Author

Hi there, my name is Lillie-Ann. I am 12 years old and a year 7 pupil in a South-East London school.

My dream since I was seven years old has been to become an author. I love to read and always have my head in a book. My favourite books are the Harry Potter series, Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow and anything by Jaqueline Wilson.

I have just started writing my first book which is about a girl called Olivia who wakes up one day to find herself in a room with a talking cat and bunch of problems. I’m going to be posting certain chapters on Twitter and it would mean the world to me if I could have some feedback on my first drafts.

Read my work online: 
Don't forget that you can email or tweet feedback to CENMAC.

Training Dates

Clicker Training Dates

As many of you are aware, the CENMAC team provide centralised training at least three times a year, which is bookable via our website 

  February: Clicker Training:
  Eventbrite | February
                           June:  Clicker Training: 
                           Eventbrite  | June

14 & 21 May 2020

We are really excited to be collaborating with the Ace Centre and New Bridge School for Communication Works 2020, North and South. Click on the button below to register for your FREE ticket.
Communication works logo
Levelling the Playing Field for all Learners
Save the dates! Communication Works 2020 South (London) Thursday 14 May and North (Oldham) Thursday 21 May.


… and finally

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CENMAC and Charlton Park Academy Vimeo Channel
CENMAC - based at Charlton Park Academy (est.1968) | @charltonsch  
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