Indiana University
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Erna  Alant Profile Image

Erna Alant

Professor and Otting Chair in Special Education
W.W. Wright Education Building Room 3238
Phone : (812) 856-8110
Send me an e-mail
Department:  Curriculum and Instruction
Affiliations:  Special Education
My website:
About Me | Degrees | Publications | Presentations | Awards


I received my bachelors, masters and PhD in the field of Speech- Language Pathology at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. Thereafter I joined the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg in 1978 from where I moved to Durban, Kwa-Zulu Natal to work in the school context. In 1984 I was appointed at the University of Pretoria as a clinical tutor, lecturer and later as professor in Communication Pathology.


In 1990 I founded the Centre for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (CAAC) which is a unique graduate training and research facility in Africa. In 1995 the CAAC received the Education Africa Presidential Award from Nelson Mandela for its work in South Africa. I also received the Rolex Award for Enterprise in 1998 for the project “Communication for life”. Since then, the CAAC has received numerous national and international awards in recognition of its impact within the African continent and beyond.


My research endeavors over the past 18 years have focused largely on the development of relevant communication systems for people who have no or little speech within poverty contexts. One of the outcomes of this research was a book on “AAC and Severe Disability: Beyond Poverty” published by Whurr Publishers in 2005. This book, which was co-edited by Dr Lyle L Lloyd from Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana was the first book which focused on poverty and AAC intervention internationally.


In 2008 I received an award from the American Association for Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities in recognition of my international contribution to the field. I am presently, President-elect of the International Society for Augmentative and Alternative Communication (2009-2010) and an associate editor for the journal of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC).


I started  at Indiana University, Bloomington on January,1  2009 in the position of  professor and  Otting Endowed Chair in Special Education and look forward to working with colleagues, students and the broader community in building a strong training and research program within the field of severe disabilities and augmentative and alternative communication.  May our efforts in this field not only be of benefit to those in Indiana, but extend beyond the United States to provide different opportunities for growth and skill development to all working in the field.


D.Phil Communication Pathology, 1984, University of Pretoria, South AFrica

MA In Speech-language Pathology, 1979, University of Pretoria, South AFrica

B (Logopedics), 1977, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Communication Studies (1 & 2), 1977. University of South Africa, South AFrica

  • Alant, E ; Zheng, W; Ogle, L Dada, S. Autism and Recognition of symbols Depicting Emotions - submitted
  • Alant, E; Halder, S; Ogle, L Tan, P. Special Educators Perceptions of Children with Severe Communicaiton Problems in the Classroom - reworking
  • Alant, E; Geyer, S Verde, M . Experiential learning and Empathy - manuscript submitted
  • Tonsing, K; Data, S Alant, E 2014. Teaching Graphic Symbol Combinations to Children with Limited SpeechDuring Shared Story Reading. AAC, pp. 1-19
  • De Klerk, M; Dada, S Alant, E 2014Childrens identification of graphic symbols representing four basic emotions:Comparison of Afrikaans-speaking and Sepedi-speaking children.
  • Alant, E; Rajaram, P Dada, S. 2014. Two contributions:The use of Blissymbols as a Tool for Investigating Perceptual and Conceptual Processs, pp. 95Self-generation Effect and Symbol Recognition in People with Severe aphasia, pp. 96-99.
  • Alant, E; Zheng, W; Harty, M Lloyd, L. (2013)Translucency Ratings of children with Autism over Repeat Exposures, AAC, 1-12.
  • Alant, E; Champion, A; Peabody, E (2013). Exploring interagency collaboration in AAC intervention. Communication Disorders Quarterly, 34, 3, 172-183.
  • Rajaram, P; Alant, E Dada, S. (2012) Application of the Self-Generation Effect to the Learning of Blissymbols by Persons Presenting with a Severe Aphasia. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 28, 2: 6473.
  • Joubert, K; Bornman, J Alant, E. 2010 . Speech Intellibility and Marital Communication in ALS: An Exploratory study. Communication Disorders Quartely, 33, 1, 34-41.
  • Harty, M and Alant, E. 2011. Early Childhood Development and Intervention. In E. Landsberg, E; Kruger, D Swart, S. Addressing Barriers To Learning: a South African Perspective. Pretoria: Van Schaik Publishers.
  • Alant, E ; Kolatsis, A Lilienfeld, M . The Effect of Sequential Exposure of Color Conditions on time and Accuracy of Graphic Symbol Location.Augmentative Alternative Communication, 26, 41-47.
  • Joubert, K; Bornman, J Alant, E. 2010. Speech Intelligibility and Marital Communicationin Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis: An Exploratory Study. Communication Disorders Quarterly (OnelineFirst)
  • Johnson, E; Bornman, J Alant, E. 2010. Parents perceptions of home reading activities comparing children with and without learning disabiity. Perspectives in Education, 28, 34-43.
  • Bornman, J., Alant, E. Du Preez, A. (2009). Translucency and Learnability of Blissymbols in Setswana-speaking Children: An Exploration. Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 25(4), 287-298
  • Dada, S Alant, E (2009). The Effect of Aided Language Stimulation on Vocabulary Acquisition in Children With Little or No Functional Speech. American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology 18, 50-64.
  • Goldblum, G Alant, E (2009). Sales assistants serving customers with traumatic brain injury. Aphasiology, 23(1), 87-109
  • Alant, E ; Uys, K Tonsing, K. (2009). Communication, Language and Literacy learning in Children with Developmental Disabilities. In Matson, JL; Andrasik, A Matson, M.L. (Eds). Treating Childhood Psychopathology and Developing Disorders.Springer, New York, pp. 373-402.

  • 2014 What is a competent AAC User" Perspectives from AAC Interventionists. Clinical AAC Research Conference, St Louis, Missouri, Sept, 19-20 2014 (Alant, E; Ogle, L Alhajeri, O).
  • 2014 Four Invited presentations in Taiwan February, 20-27 2014 :- Building Relationships to facilitate learning of children who use AAC. National Chiayi University, Chiayi February, 22 2014- Communication in the Classroom: How to use core vocabulary to facilitate learning. Plenary, TWSAAC Conference, Chiayi February, 23 2014.- How can we support teachers who work with children with severe communication problems more effectively" Maria Social Welfare Foundation, Taichung February, 24 2014- Dementia and AAC Intervention, Chung-Shan Medical University, Tauchung February, 25 2014.
  • Alant, E Ogle, L - Special Educators Perception of Children with Severe Communication Problems in the Classroom: A cross-cultural study
  • Alant,E Ogle, L Perceptions of Teachers who work with Children with Severe Communicatoin Problems: A Cross cultural study.
  • Zheng, W Alant, E - Teachers Instructional langage use with Students with moild and Severe speech-language impairments.
  • Zheng, W Alant, E - Identification of emotions using graphic symbols by children with Down Syndrome
  • Special Educators perceptions of children with severe communication problems in the classroom: a cross-cultural study
  • Teaching graphic symbol combinations during storybook reading.Kerstin Tonsing and Erna Alant:ISAAC conference presentation, Pittsburgh, August 1 2012.
  • Identification of Emotions Using Graphic Symbols by Children with Autism.Poster presentation, ASHA Convention, Atlanta, November 16 2012
  • Implementation and effects of an aided language sitmulation training program in classroom settingsAnnette Chamption Erna Alant, Poster presentation at ISAAC Conference, Pittsburgh, August, 1, 2012.
  • Invited to present to the ISAACresearch symposiumstrand on Blisssymbols.This presentation was on my current research which focuses on the use ofBlissymbols. The presentation was based on my research with Priya Rajaramand Shakila Dada (please see Rajaram, Alant Dada, 2012) and the paper that is currently in final stages of review (Alant, Zheng, Harty Lloyd).
  • Dementia and End of Life Communication. Keynote presented at the AAC Research Seminar, University of Pretoria, October 12 2012.
  • Using Peer-mediated Instruction to Suppport Communicaiton in Students wiht Autism in a Mathematical Context.Paulo Tan Erna Alant, ISAAc Conference, PittsburghJuly 31, 2012
  • Opening and Closing Addressesto the 15th Biennial Conference of the International Society for AAC.
  • 2011 Developing videos for Training Retail Personnel Serving Customers with TBI. ASHA, San Diego, November, 19-22 2011 (Goldblum, G Alant, E)
  • 2011 Perception of Graphic Symbols by Children with Autism. Clinical AAC Conference, University of Minnesota, Minnesota. October, 14-16 (Alant, E; Zheng, W Lloyd, L.L)
  • 2011 Leadership in Promoting Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (Invited Opening Speech). Second Regional African AAC Conference, Birchwood, Boksburg, South Arica (July 31-August, 1 2011).
  • 2011 Communication and Ethics. Plenary Presentation: Eighteen AAC Research Seminar, Centre for AAC, Boksburg, South Africa.
  • 2011 Leadership in Promoting Augmentative and Alternative Communication. (Invited Opening Speech). Lets Talk together AAC in Europe, Warsaw, Poland (June 30-July 1 2011).
  • Invited presentation on Graphic symbols and Emotions as part of the research strand on Graphic symbols
  • A Meaning-based Paradigm for Communication: Implications for AAC Intervention. American Speech and Hearing Association, Philadelphia.
  • A Meaning-based Paradigm for Communication: Implications for AAC
  • A Framework for Understanding Computational Linguistics - co presenting with Nyberg, Eric and Baker, Bruce
  • Developing Local Interagency Support for AAC Intervention: A Case Study .(Champion, A; Alant, E Peabody, E).

  • I have been appointed as extraordinary professor in the Centre for AAC, University of Pretoria until 2012. In this capacity I supervise PhD students and support faculty.
  • Mellon InnovatingInternational Research, Teaching and Collaboration Innovative Curriculum Fellowship
  • President of ISAAC : 2010 - 2012
  • Re-appointment of Distinguished Professor in the Center for Augmentative and Alternative Communication from 2012-2014
  • Reading and reviewing the PhD thesis of: D. KlopThe relationship between narrative skills and reading comprehension
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