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
For example 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.
These 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.
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
These are used with pupils who 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)
PECS 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 Makaton 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 Makaton training workshops throughout the year which staff and parents are able to attend. Parents will be kept informed of dates for Makaton training workshops through the school newsletter. Child specific signing training and support is ongoing through SALT input.
Language, Symbols and Signs
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 . 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.