Increasing inclusion in early childhood: Key Word Sign as a communication partner intervention

Kathy Cologon*, Zinnia Mevawalla

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    The importance of communication partner intervention to support the successful implementation of augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) strategies has been established. Despite this, limited knowledge and use of AAC form serious barriers to inclusion. In this study, 196 pre-service early childhood teachers were taught key word signing (KWS), one common form of AAC, along with approximately 80 Auslan signs. Participants were asked to develop ideas for implementing KWS in early childhood settings. Using participant journal entries, we conducted a thematic analysis to investigate the perceived impact of using KWS in early childhood practice. Participants reported the belief that KWS was beneficial for supporting communication development. Participants identified that using KWS can facilitate inclusive approaches through reducing barriers to participation, valuing diversity, and supporting a sense of belonging. Additionally, participants reported that engaging with inclusive approaches to using KWS formed a catalyst for fostering openness to inclusion more broadly. Overall, the findings demonstrate that approaching KWS as a communication partner intervention holds potential for contributing to the conditions for inclusion in early childhood settings in line with social relational and human rights models of disability. Implications for teacher education and inclusive practice are discussed, as are the limitations of this study.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)902-920
    Number of pages19
    JournalInternational Journal of Inclusive Education
    Issue number8
    Publication statusPublished - 2018


    • manual signing and gesture
    • early childhood education
    • inclusive education
    • social relational model of disability
    • human rights model of disability
    • communication partner intervention

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