"Communication falls into the same category as food, drink and shelter - it is essential for life, and without it life becomes worthless." Anne McDonald, campaigner
- Don't be afraid to speak directly to the child.
- Encourage eye contact.
- Say the child's name clearly as a way to start each communication.
- Find out what communication method the child uses and consider how to use it across the whole setting.
- Never underestimate parental experience.
- Encourage and give time for speech and / or vocalisations.
- Give children the chance to be active in their communication by giving choices.
Communication is at the very centre of our lives. It is about expressing our identity as individuals and allowing us to have relationships with others. Imagine being denied one of our fundamental human rights: that of the right to communicate. Communicating with one another happens in many different ways, with our hands, eye contact, and bodyl language, crying and laughing. Most of us who use the common form of communication ignore the many other methods of communicating, such as signs, symbols, behaviour, hand / eye-pointing, facial expression. This is called unaided communication. It does not involve any external materials or equipment, and is used by all of us unconsciously when speaking. Disabled children are not always able to use the full range of unaided communication, but they still express the same feelings, albeit in a modified manner, such as going into extension spasm with excitement. Aided communication is called augmentative communication and refers to techniques, symbols and strategies often referred to as low-tech that are needed to aid children with a communication need. Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) is a means of replacing spoken words by an individual. It can range from a movement or behaviour that is interpreted as meaningful, to the use of code agreed between people where items have specific meaning, i.e. language.
Communication resources to aid inclusion
Supporting Communication Through AAC Foundation Stage is module 7 of a series of downloadable documents produced by Scope which can be found at http://www.scope.org.uk/downloads/ey/InclusionSheets.pdf
Play Talks pack - Scope has produced a pack of fun ways to promote communication through play for children under five who have additional needs. It consists of colour-coded factsheets and a CD-ROM and costs £18 including postage and packing. To order a copy call 020 7619 7342 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The pack provides more information about useful organisations, of which the following are a selection: Communication Passports Template - Communication passports were developed by Sally Millar as a simple and practical guide to help everyone understand people with additional difficulties. They contain personal information about the person's needs, how he / she indicates yes or no, and so on. They value the person, giving them a voice along with a choice, providing positive problem-solving solutions and in doing so help new people quickly understand their needs.
Scope has developed a template focusing on the child. It comes in three different sizes and assists parents / carers and professionals working hand in hand with the child to make a start creating their own individual communication passport. They are available on the Play Talks CD-ROM and can also be downloaded free from http://www.scope.org.uk/services/early-years
1Voice Communicating Together is run by parents for users of low-tech and electronic communication aids and it offers information and support. www.1voice.info
First Steps, Communication Matters c/o The Ace Centre, 92 Windmill Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 7DR. Tel 0870 606 5463. www.communicationmatters.org.uk
I Can is a collaboration of three communication organisations. In particular it provides information on adapting the environment.
The Aidis Trust provides specialist computer equipment to disabled people of all ages to aid their communication. 1 Albany Park, Cabot Lane, Poole, Dorset BH17 7BX. Tel 01202 695244. www.aidis.org
AbilityNet gives advice on using computers through assessments, workshops and courses. It also has an extensive list of communication aid assessment centre / services. Tel 0800 269545. www.abilitynet.org.uk