Supporting Communication

Supporting communication

Services and organisations

A wide range of services are available to support people who experience communication difficulties. This includes speech pathologists, special educators and community support agencies.

When you engage a service provider, you can expect they will listen to you. You are the expert on your life! Your views are important. They should take your views, preferences, and situation into account when planning your care. This includes providing a culturally safe, inclusive, and non-judgmental service.

You can be involved as much or as little as you want in decisions about services.

You might want important people in your life, such as family members, carers, or Elders, to help make decisions about the services to you choose. This is sometimes called supported decision making.

The individual at the centre

The individual with communication difficulties should be at the centre of all decisions about their communication.

This is called a person-centred approach.

A person-centred approach means the person with communication difficulty is respected as a person first. The focus is on what they can do, and what they want to achieve next, rather than their condition or impairment. It it on their individual needs, situation and personal goals.

Many people with communication difficulties will advocate for themselves. However, many will also require the support of family, carers, or a familiar communication partner to support them in explaining their needs and goals to service providers.

Speech pathologists

Speech pathologists are the professionals who diagnose and provide services for people with communication difficulties. They also work with people who have difficulties safely swallowing food and drink. Read What is a speech pathologist? on the Speech Pathology Australia website. (Also available in Arabic, Chinese and Vietnamese, see bottom of the page.) 

Speech pathologists are key members of teams that assist people who use Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC). This includes strategies, aids, and technologies that assist people who communicate using something other than speech. Speech pathologists can help people to decide on the right type of AAC for them.

Speech pathologists work across a range of settings including hospitals, schools, community health centres, residential and aged care facilities, disability services, mental health facilities, juvenile justice centres and private clinics. Read more about how speech pathologists work in various settings.

Find a speech pathologist.

Other professionals and support staff

Many other professionals are part of the teams that support people with communication difficulties. These include occupational therapists, physiotherapists, teachers, psychologists, local doctors, and medical specialists.

Other health professionals may also sometimes provide services for people with communication difficulties, for example audiologists and music therapists. You can read about them on the Allied Health Professionals Association website. Information about access to allied health services can be found here.

In some services, allied health assistants work under the supervision of allied health professionals to provide support and treatment. Allied health assistants can also be called rehabilitation assistants, therapy assistants, or therapy aides.

Other support staff may provide personal care, technical equipment advice, social supports, and dietary advice, etc.

A team approach involves the person with communication difficulties, their family and carers, their speech pathologist, other professionals, and support staff all working together.

Everyone involved in providing services needs to understand the person's communication needs and supports.

Finding services 

It can sometimes be challenging finding the appropriate services and organisations for your needs.

Government websites and agencies are a good source of information about local services. For example, Australia’s Disability Gateway has information and services to help people with communication difficulties, their family, friends and carers, to find the support they need.

You can find more useful websites and information at Finding good quality information.

Local health services and schools are often central to providing support for people with communication difficulties. As well, various non-government and independent organisations, private providers and businesses also provide services and supports.

For those using NDIS funding to pay for services, the NDIS registered service provider logo identifies appropriate local service providers.

Learn more

Disability Gateway An Australian Government initiative. It is designed to connect people with disability and their support networks with helpful information and services. Topics includes Income and finance; Employment; Aids and equipment; Housing; Transport; Health and wellbeing; Everyday living; Education; Leisure; Rights and Legal.