What is Total Communication?
Total Communication is using speech, symbols, signing, photographs, objects of reference and tactile clues, in various combinations, to ensure that individuals can fully and comfortably communicate with other people, at their own level. At Lampard, although the majority of our students are able to use speech, the use of symbols and Makaton signs across the school meets the varying needs of all students enabling them to access effective communication.
All of our students will have been identified as having a level of speech, language, communication and interaction need (SLCN). Even when a student appears to be able to communicate effectively through speech the availability of symbols and signs can aid understanding, give more processing time, and offer reassurance for those that need it.
Symbols are used for visual schedules, key topic related vocabulary, word banks, information around the school, social stories and locating resources in the classroom. Many students benefit from having written instructions supported with symbols, not for every word, but for the key words, to support understanding and independence.
Makaton is a language programme that uses symbols, signs and speech to enable people to communicate. It is a key component of a Total Communication approach. Whilst a whole sentence will be spoken it is usually only the keywords that are signed. Using Makaton will not stop an individual talking because speech is always used with it.
Many people will associate Makaton as being used with people with severe learning difficulties or associate it as something for very young children. However, it is being increasingly used by the general public as an aid to communication, furthermore research has shown that Makaton can benefit children with speech, language, communication and interaction needs (SLCN) because:
- The use of signs slows down speech, allowing more processing time.
- Signs can provide visual information not provided by the sounds in words, which can aid working memory.
- Signs emphasise and separate words in the flow of speech, which can aid understanding.
- The speaker has to think about the words they are using which helps to match the spoken language to the needs of the listener.
Makaton at Lampard Community School
As part of the drive to embed Total Communication across the school there has been a focus on Makaton to support communication, independence and wellbeing. While some staff have had Makaton training and feel confident to use it, other staff will need to learn. All staff have been taught key signs linked to our school values and some every day and greeting signs for the classroom and playground.
The videos for these signs can be viewed below. Parents and carers may find it useful to use some of these signs at home.