Total Communication

Communication is the heart of all learning within school, as such we adopt a total communication approach to allow the development of pupils’ social and functional communication skills. Specialist strategies are woven into daily practice across the curriculum pathways designed to build the foundations of communication. Key approaches include Intensive Interaction, The Hanen Approach, Hand Over/Hand Under Sign, On Body Signing, Alternative and Augmentative Communication Devices (AAC), Objects of Reference, TEACCH, PACPAC, Call and Response, Picture Exchange Communication (PECS) and signing with Sign Supported English.


Total Communication.

At Wood Bank school we use a total communication approach when supporting our pupils. It is a holistic approach and is about using the right combination of communication methods for a pupil to ensure the most successful forms of contact, information exchange and interaction. It is a way of optimising an individual's potential and reducing the barriers which surround their communication difficulties.

Communication can be both functional and social and in school, we use the following methods in supporting individual children to communicate and connect with others.

Spoken Language

Speech: Speech is used alongside all other forms of communication systems with pupils in school. Clear, simple language us used to match the needs of individual pupils; this may be through the use of key words or simple, grammatically correct sentences.

Objects of Reference

Objects of reference are used to support pupils in understanding. It involves using the whole or parts of an object for the pupil to hold or touch in order to identify what is happening. Objects of reference can be used to represent an object, a place, a person or an activity.

Photographs and Symbols

Photographs and symbols are used to help pupils with symbolic understanding to anticipate what is going to happen next or for the pupil to make a choice as part of supporting their expressive language development. Photographs and symbols can also be used for Now/Next cards, choice boards, task sequence cards and in social stories.

Sign Language

Sign Language is a way of communicating using hand gestures. At Wood Bank we use Sign Supported English which uses British Sign Language signs to support the delivery of key words in the order of spoken language. Hand under hand signing is also used in school to support children with visual impairments and complex needs. This approach allows the child to remain in control, to focus on objects that they touch, connect with the world around them and to learn at their own pace.

Non-Formal Communication

This is a way of communicating and expressing feelings, wants and choices without speaking, writing or signing. We work closely with pupils in order to develop and respond to their non formal means of communication such as gesture, body language, vocalisations, pointing etc.

Intensive Interaction

This is a child led, responsive approach to support pupils at an early communication stage to develop social communication and interaction skills. The approach teaches pupils how to enjoy being with another person, eye contact, understanding facial gesture, meaningful shared vocalisations, early turn taking and initiation.


AAC is a range of strategies used in school to help pupils develop expressive language skills. Some strategies used are low tech, such as Picture Exchange Communication and some systems use computers and other devices to help develop speech.

Here are some useful websites to further support.