Basic Understanding of the Communication Process and Strategies

** Pupils need to understand what ‘communication’ is and what it is for, as distinct from ‘language’. Being able to talk does not mean the same as being able to communicate

They need:

  • something to communicate about (reasons)
  • a way of communicating (means)
  • someone to communicate with (opportunities)

For detailed information on means, reasons and opportunities follow this link.

Strategies to support the communication process:

  • Try to make the environment autism-friendly-calm and quiet.
  • Use visual structure, following the principles of the TEACCH approach. The TEACCH approach uses visual structure to organise the world.
    You can structure:
    • the environment e.g. with colour-coded areas; dividing lines; different floor surfaces; position of furniture; place-mats.
    • the day e.g. using a visual timetable (with objects, photos or symbols).
    • the lesson or session e.g. using a first/then template, a visual schedule or a job list.
    • the task e.g. using start/finish baskets; a list of materials required; a visual jig of the sequence of steps within the task; an example of the completed task.
    • the communication exchange (clearly mark the turns).
    • the time (duration of tasks) e.g. using sandtimers or clocks.
  • Wait! Give pupils the time to respond to you.
  • Know your pupil! Be perceptive at picking up their communication (and stress) signals.
  • Respond in a consistent way.
  • Do not anticipate all the pupil’s needs. Try a little ‘creative sabotage’ e.g. putting a desired item on a high shelf or in a clear box with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Choice can overwhelm pupils with social communication difficulties. If a pupil knows how to make choices, offer a restricted choice. Otherwise you will need to teach ‘choosing’ asa social skill.
  • Consider AAC. This involves the use of systems (e.g. symbols, communication aids, non verbal strategies) to enhance communication skills, in order to facilitate social and personal development.
  • Consider the Social Stories approach (follow this link).
  • Consider the Social Scripts approach (follow this link).

N.B. Pupils will use their behaviour as a way of communicating if more socially acceptable means are not easily available to them. Consider alternative and augmentative means of communication (see AAC section).

** This is used throughout the document and refers to puplis with autism

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Last updated: 28 October 2015

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