Parents and Carers

Speech delay in children

If you suspect your child has a speech delay or any other complications, please seek professional advice. is a great resource, it is supported by the Australian Government of Social Services and has lots of information to point you in the right direction

Speech Delay, Communication Difficulties and Key Word Sign

We understand how daunting it can be to have a child with a speech delay or communication difficulty and not being sure on what is best for your child.

When your child is non-verbal, pre-verbal or non-speaking it is natural to seek out ways to help your child communicate non-verbally, communication is a human right and is essential to child development.

Communication does not have to be verbal it only has to ensure your children’s needs and wants can be met, and their ideas and thoughts can be expressed.

This is why Key Word Sign is such an amazing tool.

You may have arrived here after hearing about Key Word Sign from your child’s Speech Therapist (SLP), Occupational Therapist (OT) or just happened upon us when looking for alternative methods of communication.

Thank you for visiting and welcome!

Please find below more information on Key Word Sign and what assistance Sunshine Sign and Sing can offer you to start your family on their Key Word Sign journey.

What is Key Word Sign?

Key word sign (‘KWS’) (previously known as MAKATON) is the use of manual signs, facial expressions and natural gestures with spoken words to assist communication for those that are pre-verbal or have communication difficulties. It is one of the most widely used strategies for people that cannot communicate by speech alone. 

In Australia the signs used are borrowed from Australian sign language (Auslan), however it is very different from Auslan as signs are used alongside speech with only the key words being signed. For more information on key word sign click here.

For children that use Key Word Sign a number of benefits have been found, the most obvious is communication, as it provides a child an alternative form of communication while they are pre-verbal. It has also been shown to assist with their understanding of verbal language and can help them develop spoken language.

By being able to express their needs and wants it has also been shown to reduce meltdowns and frustration due to your child being understood. For more information on the benefits of Key Word Sign please click here.

Is Key Word Sign right for you child?

There are a number of tools to assist your child communicate, most commonly called Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) tools.

We recommend that when you use Key Word Sign you also use other AAC tools to see which method of communication your child prefers, this is known as a multi-modal approach.

Your child may also alternate between different forms of AAC dependant on numerous factors including age, emotional state and current ability.

Before adopting Key Word Sign as a method of communication it is worth considering the following:

  • Is Key Word Sign likely to be a support until spoken language develops or a replacement for language?

    If it is likely to be a replacement you may want to consider whether Auslan may be a more appropriate tool, dependant on your child’s ability.
  • Does your child have / will they have the fine motor skills to use Key Word Signs?
  • Will your child be able to learn the signs?

    An advantage of symbol / picture based AAC it does not require your child to remember the signs.
  • How likely is it your child’s community will be willing to learn the signs to be able to communicate with your child?

    Please note we have training and resources to overcome this potential barrier.
  • Are there any other AAC tools already being used by your child’s Early Learning Service, Kindergarten or School?

    Please note many of our resources have the board maker symbols to complement many of the AAC tools available.

How can we help?

We have a number or resources and services to assist you begin your family’s Key Word Sign journey. These include:

  • Resources to help set up a signing environment in both the family home and at your child’s Early Learning setting or school including:
    • Posters for a variety of settings and themes
    • Flashcards
    • Story Books (with access to videos of signs)
    • Song & Sing Books (with access to music tracks)

Where to start

If you are new to Key Word Sign we recommend that you start with just a few signs. Below we have set out a few products and services that will introduce you and communication partners to Key Word Signs that are easy to integrate into your daily life and are signs to assist your child to get their basic needs and wants met:

Once you are familiar with the basic signs it is recommended that you become familiar with the core signs and then select a fringe vocabulary based on what is most useful to your child that will get their wants and needs met, while also ensuring they can express their ideas and thoughts.

Do you want something a little different?

If you are unable to find the particular Key Word Sign resources you are looking for we are able to customise for a reasonable price.

We are always looking for new products that will be of most use to the Key Word Sign community so please get in touch today.

If you suspect your child needs some extra support, Little TheraPeas might be able to help.

Little TheraPeas

Little TheraPeas is a multidisciplinary Sunshine Coast paediatric therapy clinic offering Occupational Therapy (OT), Psychology and Therapy Assistants delivered from it’s Aura (Caloundra) clinic.

Our passion is to help children and their families reach independence and success throughout their lives. Our focus is to build a supportive, fun and friendly environment which focuses on building rapport with you and your little pea.