Using Key Word Sign (KWS)

Using Key Word Sign (KWS) thumbnail.

Did you know that the most common barrier to learning is communication?

Through our consultations in schools, teachers have identified communication as a consistent barrier to students’ inclusion and learning. As part of those conversations, teachers have expressed a need to learn more about KWS and how they can incorporate signs into their classrooms.  

What is Key Word Sign?

Key Word Sign (KWS) is an evidence-based intervention that can support the development of speech, language, communication, and social interaction skills in children and adults.

Key Word Sign adds signs to spoken words by signing the key words in a message.

Key Word Sign Australia acknowledges the Deaf community for the use of Auslan signs. KWS is not a sign language, but it borrows the signs from the sign language of the country it is used in. In Australia, this is Auslan. 

Benefits of using Key Word Sign

There are so many benefits to using KWS, inside and outside of the classroom, to support communication:

  • KWS helps students understand the teacher and their peers. 
  • KWS is an unaided AAC and subsequently more accessible than aided AAC (i.e., you don’t need a special device, just your hands!). 
  • KWS encourages eye contact and attention.  
  • KWS is present longer as a visual prompt than the spoken word, which allows more time for processing the message. 
  • KWS develops students’ vocabulary and language skills. It does not hinder the development of speech skills. 
  • KWS reduces frustration and encourages communication. 
  • KWS builds on natural gesture. 

We have several upcoming events to support educators with using KWS. See what’s coming up here: Upcoming Events

Our accredited KWS presenter will visit your school to provide a professional development to all relevant staff members to support them in communicating with their students with intellectual disability or Down syndrome.

Our DSQ Education Team can support schools and kindergartens with information, resources and strategies around using visuals, Key Word Sign or Auslan, communication books (e.g., PECS, PODD book), and speech generating device apps (e.g., Proloquo/Proloquo2Go, LAMP, PODD) inclusively in the classroom and playground.

To find out more, email us at:

Check out our podcast episode that explores inclusive adjustments for students with Down syndrome