Communication is of vital importance both in pupils’ academic progress and in successful social interaction. Our central approach to teaching is based around the pupils’ ability to understand and use language and we use a modified, broad and balanced curriculum in order to practise, consolidate and generalise out their language and communication skills.
- To provide the child with a means of expressive and receptive communication.
- To give the child confidence within their communicative environment.
- To give the child control over his/her own environment.
- To give all pupils irrespective of their communication needs, access to signs, symbols and VOCAs, so they may acquire the skills needed to communicate with those who use a different mode of communication themselves.
- To give the child the idea of communication, the realisation that they can communicate a need, wish, idea, feeling, using their chosen mode of communication and that they will be acknowledged.
- To provide the child with an opportunity to initiate a communicative interaction with parents, peers and members of staff.
- To provide an environment where the pupil feels valued and wants to communicate ideas.
- To provide pupils with access to the curriculum where he/she can contribute ideas, own knowledge and perception towards subject(s) and concept(s) being taught.
It has been agreed that a Total Multi-modal Communication Approach, which includes all modes of communication, is used throughout the teaching and learning process, where appropriate. This not only reinforces each pupil’s communication system but provides models of how each system can be used to communicate. It also provides the teacher with an opportunity to assess which mode or modes of communication the pupil is able to receive and understand and other pupils learn how to communicate with the child using an alternative communication system.
In order to achieve this we need to:
- Use the appropriate level of spoken language and play/social activities for each child;
- Use signs supporting English, natural gesture and actions with songs, stories and everyday communication with the children in order to stimulate visual attention and to support development of understanding, not only through listening but also through visual channels;
- Use objects of reference/symbols for class timetables, on displays, to label rooms etc. where appropriate;
- Present appropriate visual material alongside any activities that are taking place.
‘To encourage pupils to express their likes, dislikes, feelings, emotions and preferences for different audiences, it is important to develop vocalisation where possible, whether spontaneous or imitative, and/or the use of a range of communicative movements and gestures’. To develop the above skills an Intensive Interaction approach is used with pre-verbal pupils, with more complex needs, to facilitate learning.
Objects of Reference
- Whole school objects of reference.
Each class has a set of whole school objects of reference which represent certain lessons and activities experienced throughout the school. Some of the objects are also used to label certain rooms/locations in school to aid pupils’ understanding.
- Individualised objects of reference.
Some pupils have unique objects of reference which are chosen according to individual needs – taking into account sensory impairments, physical impairments and their preferences.
Photographs are used with those pupils who are able to develop their skills beyond objects of reference (concrete) to a more symbolic form of communication.
Digital cameras are available to teachers to enable them to respond to the pupils’ developing communication skills.
Symbols are used throughout school
- To enhance comprehension
- To provide means of expression
- To augment speech that may be unclear
- To encourage choice making
- To encourage independence
- To enhance organisational skills
- To promote language development
- To promote literacy
- To minimise frustration when communicating
- To facilitate social interaction with a wider network of people
It has been agreed that all symbols will be black and white unless it is felt that colour would better develop an individual pupil’s skills. The text is to be under the symbol and the font used will be ‘Comic Sans’ in both Key Stage 3 & 4. Post 16 may use a range of fonts to extend pupils reading skills.
All classes have at least one symbol ‘Answer book’ and a set of large timetable symbols.
A number of our pupils also use individual symbol timetables and/or the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and, as such, have their own timetable symbols and Communication Books containing a range of symbols for choice-making, for example, snack items, activities, places etc.
‘Communicate: In Print 2’ and ‘Symwriter’ are available on all computers to allow access to symbols by both teachers and pupils.
Signing is used to both provide an expressive means of communicating and to aid understanding in addition to spoken language. The signs used are from The ‘Let’s Sign Dictionary – 2nd Edition’ (Cath Smith), a copy of which can be found in each classroom, and signs are also available as a wordlist in ‘Communicate: In Print 2’.
We also have a former teacher of the deaf, Tracy Gibson, the communication team member who oversees this area of communication.
Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs) – See Inventory and Class lists.
- Individual VOCAs (funded by Oakfield Park School) – move through the school with the pupil
Most non/pre-verbal pupils have been assigned a VOCA to aid communication. This may be a BIGmack, Partner Two, Go Talk 4/9 or other suitable device for their own use in school until they are able to receive an appropriate aid through Wakefield CALL..
- Individual VOCAs (funded by other Agencies) – loaned to individual pupils
Wakefield CALL (Communication Aid Lending Library) closure
Due to cuts in funding, Oakfield Park School no longer has access to the range of VOCAs for loan to pupils through Wakefield CALL. Previously, once assessed, pupils were loaned the appropriate communication aid, and any necessary mount, for a term. This was then evaluated and extended if successful. Access to this facility followed them through their educational setting and on into their young adult life of college or employment as they were able to exchange or upgrade their aid on request via their key contact. As Wakefield CALL has now finished, and as such maintenance and support are no longer available, the aids on loan to some of our pupils will now be maintained by Oakfield Park, wherever possible.
- Class VOCAs (funded by Oakfield Park School) – remain in the classroom each year
All classes, except Class 12, also have VOCAs for class use to aid choice making, participation in group stories, etc. These will be added to as monies become available.
These are: a BIGmack/Step by step (one message), an iTalk2 (two messages) and a SuperTalker (one to eight messages) and can be found in a box marked ‘Class VOCAs’ together with a file containing ideas for using a range of VOCAs. A file containing a range of blank templates has been put onto the network to allow all teachers easy access (Staff Shared (\\opserver)(S) > Teaching Staff > Voca Templates) and a paper copy of some VOCA templates can be found in the box.
- Department Equipment
Each department now has an ‘Equipment’ box, in the appropriate area, containing:
- Talking Buddies
- Talking Photo Albums x 2
These items may be borrowed, tried and, if found useful, requested as an aid to individual pupils’ communication and learning.
IMPLEMENTATION AND DISSEMINATION
The Communication Team will consist of:
- Leader of English – Wendy Fereday
- Communication Co-ordinator – Anita Fish
- Signing – Tracy Gibson
- Resources – Karen Stephens
- ICT Systems Administrator – David Anson
- The Communication Co-ordinator and members of the Communication Team will work with senior leaders, teachers and TAs to implement the policy.
- The Communication Co-ordinator and members of the Communication Team will liaise with the Speech and Language Therapist working in school.
- The Communication Co-ordinator and members of the Communication Team will liaise with specialists from Wakefield SENSS including the HI Service (re: signing) and the VI Service.
- The Communication Co-ordinator and members of the Communication Team will undertake staff training as requested.
- The Communication Co-ordinator and members of the Communication Team will talk to groups of parents if requested.
- The Communication Policy is available for staff and parents to read both in hard copy and on the Oakfield Park website.