Our aim is to enable all our learners to achieve a functional and meaningful level of communication which will support them throughout their lives.
Meaningful communication is important for every individual. Those with a learning difficulty face an increased level of challenge in achieving this. At Mill Water we support our pupils through a ‘Total Communication’ approach where all forms of communication are valued and encouraged. We consider how we communicate with each of our pupils on an individual basis and ensure we adapt how we communicate to support understanding. Verbal communication will often be supported through sign, gesture, written and pictorial means. Every pupil has access to the use of symbol based apps such as Proloquo2Go, as well as PODD books and PECs within their class, where appropriate classes also use ‘objects of reference’. Specific approaches such as ‘Intensive Interaction’, Storysharing, Lego Therapy, Narrative Therapy, Colourful Semantics and ‘SmiLE’ Therapy (social communication skills) are also used.
Many pupils have their needs met through our communication rich environment but some require additional support through specific intervention and planning. We have access to the specialist knowledge of a Speech, Language and Dysphagia Therapist who assess pupils following a referral and write individual programmes for pupils if necessary.
The Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) is a communication system that uses pictures to develop early expressive communication skills. Pupils using PECS begin to communicate firstly with single pictures, but later learn to combine pictures to form sentences. As many of the pupils at Mill Water use PECS, we have produced some resources that may be useful to parents and carers at home. Please contact the school for further information.
Makaton signs are used by school staff in conjunction with speech to help capture and maintain pupils' attention, to support understanding of spoken language and situations and to facilitate pupils' language and communication skills.
Makaton signing is used alongside other strategies as a means of communication for some pupils - for example, some pupils may use a combination of Makaton signs, speech, symbols, gesture and objects of reference. Other pupils rarely use Makaton signs to communicate but find it much easier to understand spoken words when they are accompanied by Makaton signs.
It is important that the whole team (family members, carers, school staff, other relevant professionals and, where possible, peers) is involved in using signs with pupils. This supports pupils' understanding, provides a model for pupils, enables then to communicate successfully and shows them that their communication system is valued.
This multi-modal approach (use of signs and symbols), where one mode facilitates another, has been shown to increase opportunities for personal expression and development. It encourages participation in interaction and socialisation and increases access to education.
Makaton is used multi-modal throughout Mill Water School daily, and meets the needs of individual users. Different strategies may be needed for different situations and communication partners. Strategies and tools may be combined to meet a wide variety of communication functions.
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