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Communication Friendly Schools

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Presentation on theme: "Communication Friendly Schools"— Presentation transcript:

1 Communication Friendly Schools
Sally Millar CALL Scotland, University of Edinburgh 20 November 2009 The 2004 Additional Support for Learning Act and the Code of Practice lay down that schools have a duty not to disadvantage pupils with disabilities, and to make the school and the curriculum accessible to all pupils, and to improve communication with pupils What does ‘accessibility’ mean? Just ramps and lifts? Ways of helping all children understand, express themselves, and participate

2 CALL Scotland Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning
Specialists in communication and assistive technology to support children who have communication and/or writing difficulties. CALL works both with individual referred pupils and in training and capacity building in schools and local authorities.

3 A Curriculum for Excellence
To enable all children to develop their capacities as: successful learners confident individuals responsible citizens effective contributors to society. A Curriculum for Excellence: The Curriculum Review Group (2004) Language/Communication is a fundamental competence underpinning all four capacities

4 Communication is much more than just a pupil’s ‘performance’ with speech or writing
We often talk about communication as if it was just one thing, but of course we need to think about all the different aspects of communication. We need to think about how we communicate with our pupils, and how well they understand – that’s the INPUT side, just as much as we need to think about how our pupils express themselves, that’s the OUTPUT side. And we need to think about how our pupils interact with each other and with adults, and how well they can participate and have their views and their voices heard We only have a really short time today so we’re just going to give you a flavour of some of the simple techniques that might help a school to improve different aspects of communication. interact participate Pupil voice heard

5 Communication – the Big Issue!
Up to 60% of autistic children have significant communication problems. ICAN research reports that over 50% of all children entering school in the UK have some kind of difficulty with speech, language and communication. Around 10% have communication support needs persisting beyond Primary Difficulties with language input and comprehension may be overlooked in schools, where emphasis is on expressive performance and on literacy. Language and communication issues impact on every aspect of learning, literacy, personal and social development– and later life chances and quality of life. (J. Law 2007). Difficulties with language/communication are closely linked with literacy difficulties Nisbet & Aitken (2007) estimate about 15% of all pupils in Scotland have some kind of print disability (incl. VI)

6 Rationale for CFS Communication is a two-way process
It’s a whole school responsibility, not just an ASN teacher or SLT job for/with one or two individuals How schools communicate to / with all pupils and families is important How individual staff members communicate day to day with individual pupils is fundamental.

7 Communication Friendly School
In a communication friendly school - All barriers to communication are removed, to provide a safe and accessible learning environment for everybody. Supports are provided so that every pupil can make sense of his/her environment, understand others, be as independent as possible, express him/herself to the best of his/her ability, participate actively and have his/her voice heard. We’re going to propose, just for this morning anyway, that communication is perhaps the most fundamental and important of all skills for our pupils. It’s hard to imagine how anyone could even approach being an effective contributor, or a successful learner, or even a truly confident individual, without communication skills. But a recent ICAN report suggested that at least 50% of all children entering school have some form of language difficulty –in some cases perhaps just delayed speech and language development, but in some cases very severe difficulties. That’s a huge statistic. And it seems to be getting worse –whether that’s the influence of plonking young children in front of the telly, instead of talking to them - that’s a subject for another day… Another figure - the national incidence of specific language impairment is greater than the incidence of autism - and yet we hear so much about autism whereas language impairment is often missed, or misdiagnosed,or misunderstood.. The communication difficulties linked with autism of course are also a major concern. Communication difficulties are not just within the child, they can be caused or increased by the environment around the child and by the people who are the child’s communication partners. The issue needs to be addressed as a whole school approach. I have a vision of schools that give communication the place it deserves, at the very heart day to day practices right across the school.

8 A Nightmare Situation How do you feel?
Imagine this: You find yourself inside a building in a foreign country. There are no clocks and your watch is missing. You don’t speak a word of the language and no one appears to understand you. Each room in the building looks alike. You wander from room to room trying to get out, but your situation feels increasingly alien. Eventually a person puts you in a room and tries to get you to perform a task… How do you feel? 2. How does it affect your learning and task performance? 3. What would help you? 8

9 How does it feel?

10 = Inclusion and Accessibility
Not just for special schools/units and pupils with complex ASN Not just about ramps and lifts! Can be about - Reducing anxiety, supporting self-esteem and confidence Promoting pupil independence Supporting learning Increasing pupil participation Supporting transitions

11 - but it’s also valuable for -
So yes – it’s vital for Pupils that have been diagnosed with - ASD speech, language, communication impairments learning disability - but it’s also valuable for -

12 Children (& parents) who -
are new – in transition – don’t know their way around, or routines, lack confidence have attention difficulties find change difficult, require consistent structures and routines do not have English as first language experience little language / social stimulation at home (apart from TV…) have limited life experiences have difficulties reading written text seem to process information slowly do not seem to retain/remember information find it hard to follow directions and instructions have difficulties organising themselves and following through with tasks are primarily visual learners

13 Input Visual Environment
Objects, Signs, Photos, Pictures and Symbols can: provide a context make ideas more concrete support understanding of language stimulate ideas provide focus ‘scaffold’ conversations support visual learners


15 Taking News home to family

16 Nursery / Home school Diary Child ‘writes’ own news diary as she goes through the day by marking all the things she is doing, and which she likes. Symbols provide a shared conversation prompt for home

17 Low Tech Communication Kit List
Practical - EASY TO USE Digital Camera Computer Basic Picture / symbol software (Boardmaker or equivalent) Access to images on internet (unblock filters) Memory sticks, CDs etc. Laminator & laminate Colour Printer cartridges++ Velcro (plus Velcro Policy) Plastic pockets, display booklets etc. Display boards around school Low Tech is NOT ‘no cost’ Staff training and staff TIME are the most important

18 Useful Symbol Software
BoardMaker V.6 / BoardMaker Plus! + Symbol Addenda (2006, 2008) Widgit ‘Communicate’ series – Communicate in Print, SymWriter, WebWide Both now offer Mayer Johnson Picture Communication Symbols (PCS) AND / OR Widgit Literacy Symbols – rich resource, but potentially confusing

19 Symbol Software Good Practice Questions
Do staff know WHY they are using it? Do staff know the difference between PCS and PECS? Can staff make materials (eg. worksheets, choice boards, symbol supported reading books) or just print out single symbol labels? Is the software used IN SCHOOL BY SCHOOL STAFF? (ie. NOT waiting for SLT to make materials!) Is there a communication / symbol policy across the school? Standardised & consistent symbol choices? Are staff given TIME to make use of the software? Do staff share materials?

20 About me

21 Creating symbol supported, accessible materials

22 Communication Software Kit List
Computer (with ICT technician help so it behaves EXACTLY as needed, network issues addressed etc.) Easy to Use picture/symbol bank for making paper materials- for staff to use ie. Boardmaker or equivalent, eg. Widgit’s Communicate in Print) Interactive symbol Software for children to use – on IWB/plasma screen, and/or switch access eg. BoardMaker Plus!, Clicker 4/5 + PCS metafiles or other Switch interface + switches as necessary Easy to use software templates for making Passports, Talking Stories, Social Stories eg. PowerPoint (NB. BM Plus!, SymWriter, Clicker 5 could also be used)

23 symbol communication book
COMMUNICATION FRIENDLY SCHOOL signage VISUAL SUPPORTS PECS AAC symbol news sheet social stories symbol communication book choice boards symbol worksheets reminders exit pass voice output aid visual timetable ENVIRONMENT

24 Classroom timetables need to be personalised & interesting
Uninspiring…. Classroom timetables need to be personalised & interesting old diary / new diary

25 Objects of Reference Timetable transition to symbols

26 Choices (vertical/pink) within fixed timetable (horizontal/blue)

27 Bathroom prompt strips

28 Handwash prompt strip at sink

29 Visual behaviour and learning management strategies
Learning to wait…

30 Pupil Voice What Matters to me! Posters
Child is central and involved

31 Basic Symbol Passport Symbolised Passport sheet

32 Classroom / Curricular Areas
Visual Timetables Symbol Labels in classroom Picture / Symbolised Lists, instructions for all activities Symbolised Social Stories Symbol supported text in reading for information / enjoyment Symbolised worksheets This is not the same thing as providing a symbolised work station for individual child/ren – it is across the school,. Can benefit many, not just children with known complex communication difficulties. Eg children with dyslexia, children with English as a second language, parents whose own reading is not great. Many shops and cafes and public places now do this - it is the least schools can do to keep up with these.

33 In other words…. Difficulties with communication are very widespread in schools. Difficulties with communication in schools include pupils with ASD but also spread much wider. Many measures that are good practice in general for pupils with communication support needs are also supportive for pupils with ASD. Many of the measures that support pupils with ASD are also supportive for a wide range of other pupils with other types for communication support needs. Teams need to see THE BIG PICTURE and work together The most efficient way is for schools to raise the benchmark Well, for the local authority – or why not all of Scotland??

34 How to do this? We need BOTH -
Top down Scotland-wide vision Linked with national curriculum for excellence, inspected by HMIe Whole authority School Senior Management commitment School policy School improvement plan Modifying the school environment, staff behaviour and expectations Setting up an infrastructure, with Designated coordinator Bottom Up Individual pupil(s)’ needs, as assessed Individual staff members’ awareness, commitment and skills Resources, tools and strategies (including technology, software) Establishing a person responsible for generating materials Time to develop materials

35 The Principles Management - Senior Management commitment Environment –
The physical environment is barrier-free, and supportive Hardware and software in place to create and renew materials Identification of Needs School, staff, pupils in general, individual pupils Development CPD for staff on different kinds of communication support needs in pupils, and to improve their own communication Visual supports are throughout the school All school literature is accessible Partnerships Pupils’ Voices are sought and taken account of Parents Other agencies, especially SLT Local Authority, other schools

36 CFS - Evaluating Progress
One, Two & Three star system

37 Environmental & Sensory Issues
General – signs, directions, colour coding, labelling, adequate work spaces, conversation spaces, calm spaces Visual – reduce visual clutter that distracts; good light; provide visual supports Acoustic – awareness of distracting background noise, provide quiet spaces, Technological – computers are accessible to all; speech feedback, symbols available, multimedia / multiple format approaches for teaching, learning, recording, assessing. Planning new builds, especially PFI schools – remember Communication Friendly School principles and build them in from the start – can’t easily add later!

38 Photographs of staff with their names on a welcome board in the foyer
Photographs of staff with their names on a welcome board in the foyer. Wherever possible mount photographs into pockets to accommodate staff changes.

39 Doors to each room display photograph / name of adults.

40 Doors Welcome and name of each room or class on door. All labels are at eye level height and therefore can be easily seen. Push and pull signs on all doors using symbols to demonstrate push and pull action.

41 Displays Having photographs, symbols and symbolised text on displays around the school enables all students to have access to what is written. Text can be kept to a minimum when symbols and photographs are used. Using photographs to support the display makes it more interesting for everyone.

42 Symbolised text on displays in corridor.
See communication friendly materials at


44 Fife Assessment Centre for Communication through Technology
Symbolising the Environment A Whole School Approach An inclusive, whole-school initiative, which began in one school and is now being replicated in 85 other schools in Fife .

45 Using Symbols Symbols were widely used in special education, but in response to the presumption of mainstream schooling, there was a need to establish effective, inclusive practices. Symbolising the environment is a structured approach to communication for all.

46 Past problems…… Boardmaker was suggested to school staff as a method of supporting several children with additional support needs within the school by Speech and Language therapy and by FACCT. Symbols were traditionally provided by visiting staff, e.g Speech & Language Therapy and FACCT – delays were common! It was apparent that children were not motivated to use a system in isolation.

47 Past problems…… Teachers found it difficult to create opportunities for one child in a class using symbols. Symbol use focussed on particular children. Use was sporadic, developed by external agencies and generalisation was difficult.

48 Ah-ha moment!! The LS teacher noted that all the children in classes where the symbols were introduced benefited from their use in a variety of ways, therefore challenging the previously held perception that they were only for those pupils with a ‘recognised’ additional support need.

49 Spreading the word…… Fife Senior Education Manager gave his approval and backing for school trials (12) Headteacher and proposed Coordinator attend initial meeting hosted by FACCT and ASIST (Autistic Spectrum Information & Support team) Schools sign up to project…… Schools include project in School Improvement Plan Designate Coordinator and Generator (+ TIME) Training package BoardMaker software and Starter pack of symbols Criteria and accreditation Sharing Resources

50 Bronze Criteria Environmental labelling
doors breakout areas entrance hall Classroom labelling and organising trays cupboards classroom areas Visual timetables in all classes and used daily

51 Silver Criteria Choice making activities Self regulation
Golden time storytime Snack Self regulation scripts ‘Big Deal/Little Deal’ Curricular supports checklists Jolly Phonics Self registration Information – newsletters etc

52 Gold Criteria Maintain standard from Silver and Bronze
Symbols in use throughout the whole school – evidence of their daily use within every class Resources developed for dissemination to others e.g. PLPs All school literature, booklets etc to have symbol support where appropriate

53 Host visits from other schools
and keep records Participate in future training courses to give a coordinator’s/ generator’s perspective Support pupil’s advocacy in terms of preparation for planning/transition meetings etc. with symbol support. Support further symbol initiatives within the school e.g. development of Talking Mats, Personal Passports etc. Maintain the Gold standard (annual check)

54 Follow-on initiatives
Assessment is for Learning explanatory leaflets symbol supports


56 Curriculum for Excellence





61 Communication Friendly Schools If you would like to know more about, or might wish to join, the developing idea of establishing a Scotland-wide accreditation scheme of whole school approach to ‘best communication practice’, please contact: The 2004 Additional Support for Learning Act and the Code of Practice lay down that schools have a duty not to disadvantage pupils with disabilities, and to make the school and the curriculum accessible to all pupils, and to improve communication with pupils What does ‘accessibility’ mean? Just ramps and lifts? Ways of helping all children understand, express themselves, and participate

62 The Context Disability Discrimination Act / Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils’ Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002 Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 A Curriculum for Excellence

63 The law says… Education (Disability Strategies and Pupils’ Educational Records) (Scotland) Act 2002 introduced planning duties to Scottish local authoities: To improve access to the curriculum To improve access to the physical environment and increase access to education and associated services To improve communication and delivery of information for disabled pupils Core duties are: - Not to treat disabled pupils less favourably - To take reasonable steps to avoid putting disabled pupils at a substantial disadvantage - The duty is anticipatory: the potential for substantial disadvantage

64 Whole School Communication Policy examples

65 Communication Output Input

66 Input Technology used for:
Creating visuals to make the environment meaningful for children with language comprehension difficulties or difficulties with auditory processing.

67 BUT they are communication INPUT
Misconceptions Visual Timetables, TEACCH work stations, use of pics and symbols to structure the day, labelling and displays etc. are GREAT BUT they are communication INPUT - only half the battle – The child still needs to be provided with tools for communication OUTPUT

68 Augmentative and Alternative Communication AAC
Output A means of expression using methods other than, or additional to, speech (commonly, several different methods are used) Low Tech Simple Tech High Tech

69 Low Tech Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS)
Output is a specialised form of AAC (not an alternative to AAC) based on behaviour modification principles teaches child to request spontaneously child learns to find a communication partner helps to establish initiation of communication

70 PECS Issues? PECS has helped many children
It is a good communication strategy, but it’s not the only one There are many functions of language as well as requesting, eg questioning, objecting, expressing opinions etc. Being able to talk about past and future is important. Peer to peer communication is difficult PECS is not appropriate for all Progress with PECS is dependent on good vocabulary development Many children should move on from PECS more quickly than they currently do The number of symbols needed can be problematical as vocabulary and sentence construction increase The motor planning of manipulating symbols can be burdensome for some PECS is not a full scale expressive communication system

71 Talking Mats Powerful Technique
Joan Murphy of Stirling University, talks to Greg about how he would like to spend his weekdays, and where he might like to live after he leaves college.

72 Partly input, mostly output. Also Evidence
Talking Mats Partly input, mostly output. Also Evidence Photo of a completed Mat acts 1) as a record of the child’s views 2) as evidence of consultation process

73 Misconceptions Talking Mats IS BUT - IS NOT
A great way to consult children for their views on one specific topic A good way to help to focus the child and hold his /her attention A good way to reduce linguistic and motor pressures, to get at meaning BUT - IS NOT a communication system in itself

74 Low Tech Expressive Communication Tools
Output Low Tech Expressive Communication Tools Diary sheets Topic boards Communication books Communication charts provide a ‘bank’ of language for child to use (recognition is cognitively easier than recall) provide physical communication tools for the child to use

75 Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCA)
Simple /Medium Tech Single message devices, sequenced single messages Multiple message devices, few/more/many see

76 Single Message Devices
Good for - Repetitive line in stories Active participation News Calling for help / attention Dozens of ideas here:

77 Sequenced Message Devices
Good for - social stories stories & songs news instructions

78 Multiple Message Devices
Simple message devices, 2, 4, 8, 9, 20,32 locations, with recorded / digitised speech (so pre-programmed phrases) Complex, powerful VOCAS & communication software (synthetic voice, open ended communication)

79 Most Useful for mobile users
Springboard Lite / Vantage Lite (LAMP = language acquisition through motor planning) See Handhelds – Jive!, Tellus Smart etc.

80 New Generation of VOCAs
ProxTalker = talking PECS See

81 It takes two to – Tango!

82 Affordable mainstream devices
Proloquo2Go (P2G) on iPod Touch or iPhone TaptoTalk On Nintendo DS Lite or Nintendo DSi

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