Communication can be a massive barrier to sensory learners, and a big part of what we do is finding a method of communication that can help support the individual child. We want the sensory learner to understand what is going on around them, and the ultimate aspiration is to offer them a means to tell us how they are feeling and what they want. This is no easy feat.
Here are some communication strategies that might be helpful in your sensory classrooms. Pick one (or two) for certain pupils and link the strategy to their annual targets. This way you know you will practice the strategy every day and you can easily monitor, assess and show progress within the target.
- TASSELS- http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/conference-session/2014-tassels-tactile-signing-for-sensory-learners This is a form of on-body signing for your P1/2 pupils. Your school will require training as it is something everyone needs to do and use with each sensory learner. You only pick a few signs, for example in my classroom we tend to use; hello, move, hoist, wipe your face, drink/ food (if applicable). It’s a lovely way to consistently cue your learner into what is happening next. Over time might your learner show some slight anticipation to the cue.
- Objects of reference (OOR)- http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/page/using-objects-of-reference These objects, once decided upon by your whole school team, will be used with every child P1-3, to cue them into what is happening next, or to show them where they are going. As a team, think of what is important to your pupils, and ensure that every class have the exact OOR available to pupils using them. It is not effective practice to give them a stand in object if it is just going to confuse the child, so whole school consistency, is as always optimum. We tend to use OOR to help pupils understand where they are going from the classroom, so PE (quoit), swimming (arm band), home (seat belt). The pupils will be introduced to the object in the classroom, and be encouraged to hold it to the venue, where the adult will reintroduce it, linking it to the venue.
- Switches/ High tech AAC- http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/page/what-is-aac I have discussed switches before in my blogs (see ICT, Cognition blogs), as they are so versatile. We use the big mack switches to record simple phrases onto; e.g. ‘more please’, ‘hello’, or song words. We will encourage pupils to use the switch by pressing it to request more of what they like, or to finish a song. What you do with the switch will depend on what you want the child to learn. Switches are great for consolidating cause and effect. You press a switch, and you get something back. You can challenge pupils with double big mack switches, or “2 talkers”. Add photographs to two switches and ask pupils to press the switch which shows what they like. Switches can also be placed by elbows, feet and heads, so they can be accessible to children with limited hand/ arm movements.
- Intensive Interaction- http://www.intensiveinteraction.co.uk/about/ Follow the link to find out more. Intensive Interaction is a beautiful activity completed in a 1:1 context. It allows you time to work on eye contact, responses, turn taking and really can bring out the best of your P1/2 level pupils. Your school should have training to ensure best practice.
- PECS- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Picture_exchange_communication_system Again, follow the link to have it explained much better then what I could hehe! PECS is something to offer the more able sensory learner, so a P3 pupil who may be able to exchange a photograph for the actual object. Again, schools may require a key person to be trained in PECS to offer correct guidance.
- Makaton- Surely you have all heard of the magic of Mr. Tumble 😉 Makaton reinforces language rather than replaces it. Makaton is useful to work alongside symbols to develop understanding of language. It can be a successful method of communication for your more able pupils. As for all these methods, courses are available so your whole school can be consistent in the usage of signing.
As ever, please share effective communication strategies that you may use with your sensory learners and enjoy J