FAQs - AAC assessment and clinical decision making

  • What types of specialist AAC assessments are there and how can I access them?

There are a number of specialist centres throughout the UK that offer specialist AAC assessments (see service delivery and policy section of the website). These centres offer a personalised and detailed assessment of need. Access to these centres varies according to their funding source; however, all offer specific information on how to complete a referral for assessment. Contact each centre directly for the most up to date referral processes and procedures.

  • Who might assess my communication needs and what is their specific role?

This may vary according to geographical location. Specialist assessment centres tend to have a team of professionals who collaborate on the assessment. These include speech and language therapists, teachers, occupational therapists and clinical scientists/assistive technologists. Depending on your particular needs these professionals play a greater or lesser role in the assessment.

Locally, you may find a speech and language therapist completes an initial assessment of your communication needs. This personal may have the relevant AAC knowledge and may alternatively recommend that you be referred to a specialist centre for further consideration.

  • What is a care pathway?

 A care pathway exists within the NHS and is a plan for a patient’s clinical experience.  It documents the interventions and care that a patient has received and the milestones that a patient has or will achieve.  It is based on multidisciplinary working and is further explained by the Royal College of Nursing here:

  • What is a statement of educational need? (England/Wales) [Record of educational need - Scotland]

This section presents some historical information that may be helpful. Please note that the terminology and policy documentation being used across the different parts of the UK is changing. Statements of special educational needs are issued by local councils in England and Wales and outline what a child’s needs are in school and how they will be met.  They are legally binding documents that are issued if a child’s needs cannot be met within school.   A statement will detail extra resources like money, staff time or special equipment that a child might require, as well list non-educational needs.  Statements are reviewed every year and include a transition plan that helps plan for a child’s future after Year 9.

As a parent, you can disagree with the statement and request an appeal.  You can find out more about this process at:  The Department of Education has information about statements here:

There is no direct equivalent to a statement of special educational needs in Scotland.  Prior to 2005, an educational ‘record of needs’ served a similar function to a statement.  The most recent legislation, however, discontinued the use of these records.  Some literature produced in anticipation of the change in legislation is available from the Scottish Executive here:, and here:

The current legislation includes an element called a ‘co-ordinated support plan’, which can be issued by an education authority for children and young people with complex and multiple factors that affect their education.  The goal of this plan is to co-ordinate support from the variety of different agencies that a child might need to access, including education, health and social services.  Fewer children will qualify for a co-ordinated support plan than had a record of needs.  A variety of other plans for pupils exist, including individualised educational programmes and personal learning plans, but a co-ordinated support plan is the only legally-binding document. 

The Scottish charity Enquire has lots of helpful information on this topic and others.  It can be accessed online at and operates a helpline on 0845 123 2303.  It has produced information on co-ordinated support plans here:

  • What do additional learning needs mean (Scotland)?

‘Additional learning needs’ is the term that is used in Scotland to refer to all learning support needs and is used instead of the older term ‘special educational needs’.  Additional learning needs encompasses the needs of all children, including, for example, disabled children, children in care, refugees, gifted children, children with English as an additional language, bullied children, bereaved children and children who are parents.

  • How do I access speech and language therapy?

The first point of contact for speech and language therapy is your GP.  Due to changes in the health system, the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists recommends you use this option in England and Wales. 

You can also ask a district nurse, health visitor, nursery staff member or teacher for a referral.  If you would like to make a referral yourself, you can contact your local primary care trust and ask for the phone number of the local NHS speech and language therapy service (

If you would like to access private services, you can search for therapists near you on the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Independent Practice: 

  • What does clinical decision making actually mean?

This is a debatable point but in summary, it is the process that professionals, in consultation with clients and families, go through to arrive at a set of recommendations that would best support individual communication needs. In the context of this website, we would be specifically considering recommendations in relation to augmentative and alternative communication needs. This area also includes decision about a range of technologies that support communication, e.g. mounting systems, access systems, and intervention support structures.


Things you might want to look into on this site:

Although this information is believed to be accurate, you are strongly advised to make your own independent enquiries.

Last updated July 2013