Communication Strategies

Regency High school use a Total Communication approach which means that we encourage, model and support the use of all forms of communication including non verbal:


  • Eye contact
  • Facial expression
  • Body language
  • Gestures
  • Vocalisations


At Regency students have access to universal strategies throughout the school:


  • signing – Signalong sign support system
  • the use of the spoken word with emphasis on key words
  • object, photo and symbol use to support receptive and expressive language
  • visual timetables
  • listening and attention prompts
  • processing time
  • word aware strategies


If students require support above these universal strategies they may be referred to Speech and Language Therapy.   These experts will assess the student, identify what to support and develop and suggest strategies and/or resources to do this.    Students not referred to Speech and Language Therapy can still access support through Regency.  

Objects of reference or natural cues – these are a collection of objects that students are presented with along with a key word to allow them access to a cue into what is happening now e.g. their swimming costume when they are going swimming, a spoon when it is time for dinner
TaSSeLs (Tactile signing for Sensory Learners) – TaSSeLs is a system of touch and speech cues to promote effective communication with people with profound and complex learning disabilities, some of whom may have a visual impairment. It works along side objects of reference and natural cues, to provide prompts to students about what is going to happen.
objects, photos and symbols – these are individual items that students can use to make a choice (biscuit or crisps, red paint or blue paint), to give an answer (who was in the story? what did you do at the weekend?), to request something they need (toilet or help). Students may work at one of these levels but they may also be able to use symbols for familiar items and photos or objects for less familiar items. Objects and photos can easily be made and used at home to support communication. If you are going to take photos, ensure that the photos you use are good quality: white background, no clutter, clear photo that can be seen well with nothing else in the photo. In school with use a programme called Communicate in Print to make symbols. Your SaLT report will tell you whether your student is using objects, photos or symbols or a combination of these.
Now and next boards – laminated boards that shows the student what activity they are doing now and what activity is coming next. They can be used with photos or symbols.
Intensive Interaction – a practical approach to interacting with people with learning disabilities who do not find it easy communicating or being social. The approach helps the person with learning difficulties and their communication partner to relate better to each other and enjoy each other’s company more. It helps them develop their communication abilities.
PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) – is a photo or symbol based system where students learn to initiate communication by handing over a photo or symbol to an adult for an item. Initially these are motivating items. Over time Students work through the 6 levels of PECS, adding in a wider range of items in different setting, with different people for different items, using an ’I want’ with the photo or symbol to begin making sentences to make requests, aiming for Level 6 where they start commenting on things as well as requesting items. There is a set process for teaching PECS.
ALDs (Aided Language Displays) – these are a collection of symbols on a page, that create a symbolised topic page. You might have a page for snack, toys to choose from, TV programmes, craft resources, clothes to wear, etc. Students will initially point to one symbol to make a request. It is important that they realise they need to show the other person what they are indicating so that a communication exchange happens. Along side your ALD you can have core vocab, this is vocab that helps you to build a sentence e.g. like, want, you, me, more help. The adult would model using these words as they speak along with the ALD, modelling to students how to give a fuller sentence. Students learn to communicate by us modelling good communication to them, the more we model ways of communicating the more ways we are showing them they can communicate.
Communication book – A communication book is a collection of ALDs that provide students with the core and topic vocabulary in one folder or book. The adults model navigating around the communication book to find the page they want, to then use their key words along with speech to make requests, answer questions, comment on things and events. Through modelling, students are able to see what they should use the communication book for and staff can then support them to use the book. The skill with this stage is navigating to the correct page. Adults need to make sure communication books are kept up to date and relevant to what the student wants to talk about.
Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs) – A VOCA, in simple terms is a communication book on a computer, iPad or tablet, that students have to navigate through and when they touch the symbol it speaks the word for them. Students need prior experience of low tech systems (PECS, ALDS and communication books) so that they know they have to initiate communication, communicate with another person, have experience of navigating pages, and experience of building sentences to make requests, answer questions and comment on things. VOCAs are much harder to navigate as students have to be able to categorise and go through several pages to get to what they want as they can’t flick through every page like in a communication book. The adults at home with the student have to be willing to maintain a VOCA and keep all vocabulary up to date by programming it. I would not advise parents to go out and buy a VOCA without speaking to professionals. If a SaLT feels a VOCA would be suitable they can refer to an NHS company called Access to Communication Technology (ACT) in Birmingham. If a student is accepted by ACT they support the process of identifying the best device, the best vocabulary package, provide the device and remain responsible for the provision of a suitable device. There are free apps that you can explore and try on a phone or iPad but as these are free they are not able to be programmed with what the student may want to say. Regency has access to The Grid which is a VOCA app and we can try students with this if appropriate. The free app is called Grid Player and you can have access to this for free when you download the app and register. If as a parent/carer, you choose to provide your own VOCA and you want it to be used at school, there are policies in place that have to be followed.

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