Key Word Sign

A communication program that uses signs and symbols to help people communicate.

Program details

  • Priority area: Communication
  • Primary audience: Educators, parents/carers
  • Delivery mode: Group training
  • Strength of evidence: Level 5 Foundational research evidence
  • AEDC sub-domains:
    • Communication skills and general knowledge
  • Item cost: Moderate ($200$2,000 per person/item), variable

Program description

Key Word Sign is a language program that aims to help people communicate using signs and symbols, ultimately supporting spoken language. Key Word Sign allows children and adults to communicate using signs and symbols in spoken word order, then 'drop' the signs and symbols at their own pace as they develop speech. The program is especially useful for people with no speech, limited speech or unclear speech.

The workshop is delivered in an interactive teaching environment and covers the following:

  • learning a basic vocabulary of signs to use in everyday settings
  • how to choose which signs to teach
  • principles of Key Word Sign and Gesture
  • how sign helps communication development

The workshop can be accessed in two ways:

  1. Community workshop
    A one-day basic Key Word Sign workshop, including a free copy of the guide book 'Getting Started with Key Word Sign' for each participant. Workshops will be available as full day face-to-face or online over 2 half days. Workshops are scheduled throughout the year: visit provider website for details.
  2. Private workshop
    Services can engage an accredited presenter to run a one-day basic Key Word Sign workshop at their service or other location of choice, with up to 15 participants. The workshop can also be provided online. The workshop can be run over one day or across two half-days. Each participant receives a copy of the book 'Getting Started with Key Word Sign'.

Detailed cost

  • Community workshop: $350/person
  • Private workshop: $3,500 for up to 10 participants, with the option of delivery over one-day or two half-days
  • For over 10 participants, please contact the provider for a quote at

Implementation considerations

  • Target population: people of all ages with learning or communication difficulties and/or with an interest in developing their language and literacy skills. Can be used by parents and professionals. Key Word Sign can be used with all ages including babies and young children.
  • Program/practice descriptions and details: Key Word Sign Victoria regularly runs training workshops. Resources include Getting Started with Key Word Sign (AUSLAN Edition), Key Signs CD-ROM, Key Word Sign Footy Book and Key Word Sign Posters.
  • Program adaptability: Key Word Sign is flexible and can be adapted to suit the needs of individuals. Once an individual has learned the program's signs and symbols, they can adapt them to use in daily life.
  • Training requirements: no prerequisites. When the program is delivered to an entire service, all staff, regardless of their qualifications, are encouraged to participate in training. Training to become a presenter, as well as 'refresher' training, is also available. (Visit provider website for details.)
  • Factors to consider: note that the most effective way to implement Key Word Sign across a service is for all staff to receive training.
  • Staffing: services should consider the cost of backfill when determining the cost of accessing this resource.
  • Australian experience: the program was developed in the UK and has been adapted to an Australian audience, using Australian Sign Language.

VEYLDF alignment

Item uses these practice principles

  • Reflective practice
  • Partnerships with families
  • High expectations for every child
  • Respectful relationships and responsive engagement
  • Equity and diversity
  • Assessment for learning and development
  • Integrated teaching and learning approaches
  • Partnerships with professionals

Item responds to these sub-outcomes

  • Children begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work
  • Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes