Communication Language and Literacy
At Palatine School we recognise that communication is an integral part of the curriculum for all our pupils. We support and develop pupil’s speech, language and communication needs using a range of alternative communication methods. These are not used in isolation and a pupil may use several of these methods. Consistency across the school both in the implementation of communication methods and their regular use is key to pupils’ progress.
These communication strategies include:
- Simple Communication Aids: e.g. switch operated devices including head switches – Big Mac which records a single message for example, saying hello or asking for a drink, biscuit at snack time or an IPAD communication APP which enables pupils to make request and comment using their on screen symbols.
- Communication Passports give people vital information about a pupil’s individual needs including personal information, how well they communicate and communication methods that will best support their individual needs. Pupils who are non-verbal or who have complex communication disorders/ASC will be given priority for a communication passport on entry to school
- Intensive interaction where the focus is on establishing and encouraging a relationship through sharing personal space, facial expression, eye contact, vocalisation and turn taking etc. Intensive Interaction focuses on teaching the communication skills and concepts that precede speech and language development
- Objects of reference are used with pupils for whom need a tangible object rather than a 2d symbol. These are used to indicate to the pupil where they are going next. Object Signifiers are more personal to the child, for example: showing them their own lunch box rather than a bowl (the object of reference for dinner). Teachers with children identified as needing objects of reference should be able to make their own judgements in consultation with SALT if necessary as to whether a child understands better with a general object of reference or object signifier.
- PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) is used throughout Palatine school, especially for pupils with complex communication difficulties such as ASC, where pupils learn to exchange picture symbols/photographs to communicate. There are 6 phases of PECS that pupils may move through which enables pupils to move from a single symbol exchange to being able to comment on and describe their environment
Children are also able to access environmental photos/ symbols in key places around the school e.g. soft play, Ball Park, music room, playground and hall.
At Palatine School we use Signalong as a signing system alongside speech to develop a pupil’s understanding of language and their ability to express themselves. The use of signing throughout the school day by staff greatly enhances a child’s ability to be an effective communicator. The Speech and Language Team offer some Signalong training workshops throughout the year which staff and parents are able to attend. Parents will be kept informed of dates for Signalong training workshops through the school newsletter. Child specific signing training and support is ongoing through SALT input.
Language is phrased positively with what staff want the child to do rather than using negatives e.g. ‘sit on the chair’ rather than ‘no running’ as well as keeping instructions and language simple, contextual and at the child’s level of understanding e.g. 1, 2 or 3 key words . Staff are aware of the fundamental and social aspects of language and communication between adult and child, and between child and child. Opportunities to develop friendships and social skills in pairs and small groups are encouraged both in structured and unstructured activities. Deliberately engineering opportunities to use language functionally is actively targeted e.g. taking messages, choices at lunch time etc.
The use of symbols provides a valuable support for pupils’ understanding and communication, even if they are not using PECS. At Palatine Primary School the software program Communication in Print is used to support symbol production. Photographs can also be used to support specific pupils’ understanding and further aid their communication.
Either visual timetables or aural timetables (Songs of Reference) are used in all classes to communicate with the children as to what they are doing throughout the day. Visual timetables across the school will use agreed symbols. Some children use more specific individual timetables such as now and next symbol strips.
Pupils are offered a wealth of experiences to develop their literacy skills in age and skill appropriate ways.
Pupils follow the Ruth Miskin Phonics scheme “read, write inc” which is taught throughout the primary and junior hubs. Pupils for whom it is appropriate within the Unique hub will be following phase 1 phonic activities and games through their individual learning plans. Learners with ASC who are beginning to read within the unique classes many be using a whole word reading approach to learning new words and sentences. This scheme is supported by research into strategies for supporting learners with ASC carried out at Masters Level by our own Lead Teacher for ASC. There may also be individual learners within the primary and junior hubs who follow this scheme if it is appropriate for their individual learning style.
Within the Junior Hub phonics is streamed to support pupils individual progress in peer appropriate sessions.
The school greatly encourages shared reading and holds events to encourage parents to read with their children. For example our bedtime story event for primary classes was a huge success with parents, pupils and staff alike in pyjamas sharing stories together! We also have a visiting library van as well as our own school library where pupils can enjoy and share books personally and with others.
For our pupils at the earliest stages of writing, sensory mark making provides pupils with opportunities to be able to explore form, pattern, line and tracking. It enables pupils to develop the early skills of moving from left to right, associating own movement to marks made, differentiation of marks made in a range of media and early symbolism and meaning of marks through mark making stories and rhymes.
As pupils develop mark making becomes more purposeful and allows pupils a wealth of opportunities to investigate writing for a purpose, developing control in using tools and creating marks such as vertical, horizontal patterns and simple shapes. We promote and encourage pupils in early acquisition of these skills through a dedicated mark making or writing area within each learning environment. Writing and Mark making is also celebrated across the school with teachers encouraged to use pupils own writing and mark making on display where possible. Phonics teaching allows pupils to link their knowledge of phoneme recognition to grapheme creation and this is promoted through an interesting array of mark making and writing opportunities. We were able as a school to take park in the Durrington Locality Early Mark Making project which encouraged early writing skills through the Early Years and Primary Years. This had a significant impact on the provision available for pupils and our contribution as a school was noted as “exemplary”.
Writers who are working beyond the P scales are given many talk for writing and cross curricula writing opportunities through the revised curriculum. This includes discrete writing instruction such as handwriting and learning about forms and features of different writing styles.
Pupils within our junior hub learn a modern foreign language which is selected by the teacher to reflect the particular interests of their pupils. Classes have learnt Spanish, French and German at a level that is appropriate to our learners needs. This year pupils in the junior hub are studying Spanish. Pupils particularly enjoy using their newly learnt language skills when greeting and conversing with other adults around the school.