Communication at South Downs

At South Downs, our children and their learning is the centre of everything we do. Every child is an individual and is to be respected. We believe it is every child’s right to have a voice (however they choose to express it), feel valued and listened to, and have every opportunity to understand and be understood.

Communication is central to children’s development in order for them to meet their basic needs and to progress their learning. At South Downs we aim for every pupil to reach their communicative potential in order to make choices, advocate their opinion, build relationships and friendships and live happy and fulfilled lives.

Here at school we define the term Communication as how we interact with others. This incorporates:

How we understand others and the world around us (receptive skills)

How we make ourselves understood (expressive skills)

The development of communication skills is one of the central areas of our curriculum. In order to provide pupils with a highly effective communicative environment the school adopts a Total Communication Approach which means every available method is used in all situations to facilitate pupils understanding and expressive skills.

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The South Downs Communication Charter

Our Communication Charter outlines how to support pupils in their communication.

  • I might not speak but I will communicate with you.
  • Take time to recognise and understand the methods or signals I use to communicate.
  • Have patience and allow me plenty of time to respond, it may take me a while to listen, think and respond to you.
  • It’s good to communicate face to face.
  • Learn the methods I need you to use to help me understand what you’re telling me.
  • I will learn from you. Model what you want me to learn.
  • I may need lots of opportunities to practice my new communication skills.
  • Communicate with me in a dignified manner, with respect and in a way that is appropriate to my age.
  • Include me in social interactions and provide me with the means to participate.
  • Please don’t take away my means of communication.

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The South Downs Communication Team

The school aims to support every pupil to reach their potential, and therefore we must support them in developing their skills of communication. To support the delivery of high quality communication support the school has a Communication Team who work across the federation. The team consists of specialist teachers and teaching assistant who work in partnership with teachers and class teams.

Meet the Team

Sarah Tidmarsh

Sarah is the Communication Manager. She has over 12years experience working with pupils with SEN and responsible for Whole School Communication Development.

Emma Fitzgerald

Emma is the Communication Team Lead. Emma has over 10 years experience supporting pupils develop their skills of communication. Emma works directly with pupils facilitating their communication and language programmes and providing specialist teaching and training across the federation.

Louise Stanbridge

Louise is a Communication Practitioner. She works directly with pupils facilitating their communication and language programmes and providing specialist teaching across the federation.

Catheryne Freeman

Catheryne is a Communication Practitioner. She works predominantly at the Lindfield school and is the lead for Yr6 transition.

What We Do

The role of the team is to lead, promote and develop a whole school approach to communication. We work in close partnership with class teams. Together, using our Total Communication Approach we aim to:

  • Enable all pupils to develop functional communication skills
  • Support and develop every pupils receptive language skills
  • Enable pupils to gain information through a variety of methods
  • Progress every pupils means of expression

Jointly with class teams we plan and deliver individual communication programmes for each pupil in the school which are assessed and planned for 3 times per year. Communication goals are set by the Class Teacher, Communication Team Leader/ Manager and other professionals are invited to contribute, as relevant to each pupil. Following the planning of communication goals, the team provide specialist teaching to support the delivery of the programmes throughout the school day.

Most pupils’ communication needs are met by class teams and the communication team and pupils make good to outstanding progress without therapy intervention. However, if a pupil requires additional support in a specific area such as dysphagia (eating, drinking and swallowing) or an aspect of their speech development, the school and parents and carers can refer pupils to the Children’s Integrated Therapy Service. The School Communication team have regular liaison with the CITS service where pupil needs are reviewed and support is agreed. Our therapy colleagues will also work with pupils in school who have provision outlined in their EHC Plan as well as providing whole staff training as required.

 Useful Links

The Team’s Top Tips!

Top Tip 1: Motivation!

We all have things that we really like doing, such as watching sport, putting your feet up with a cuppa or reading your favourite book. When a child is first learning to communicate, it is essential we use what interest them first to engage them in wanting to interact. After all, if someone was talking to you about football, when you’re only interested in strictly come dancing, your contribution to the conversation would be very minimal!

Here’s something for you to try at home:

Work out what really motivates your child, this could be playing with bubbles, blowing raspberries, or painting. When they’re really motivated by the activity join in but then pause and hold back before repeating an action or giving them more. Encourage your child to ask or sign for ‘more’ or hand over a picture or object to show you they want another turn. (It could be you leave the bubble wand out so they have to pass it to you ask for another go).

Don’t forget, one of the most important things we can do is celebrate achievements. The big ones and the little ones too! To reinforce our praise and to support pupils understanding, we use signs. Below are some signs for you to try when your child does something you’re proud of.  Remember Communication is about enjoying interacting so have fun, be silly and enjoy it! Good luck!

(Sign for good = Thumbs up!) (Sign for Very Good = Two thumbs up!) (Sign for Amazing =Two thumbs above head!)

Top Tip 2: Key Words & Signs

This terms tip is about enabling pupils to have some control over what they’re doing or what’s happening around them. When you were little do you remember asking for seconds of your favourite dinner ‘Mum can I have some more?!!’ or feeling really full up and saying ‘can I finish my dinner now please?!’.
At school we aim teach pupils key words, signs and symbols that could enable them to have some control in different situations. The first words we consider teaching are ‘more’, ‘stop’ and ‘finish’.

Here’s something for you to try at home:

During some activities at home, you could start to use the signs and symbols below to tell your child what is happening. For instance, when you’ve read a story you can use the sign or symbol to tell your child it has ‘finished’. If your child is enjoying a snack you can say ‘oh I think you want ‘more’ showing them the sign or symbol.
When your child is more familiar with these key words, you could ask your child to make a choice between ‘more’, or ‘stop/finish’. For example, during dinnertime, you could say ‘do you want more? (use the sign or show the symbol for more) or have you finished?’ (again using the sign or show the symbol). Your child may say ‘more’ or ‘finish’, reach for the symbol they want, copy the sign or give a positive response when they see the option they want. It depends on the activity whether you use ‘finish’ or ‘stop’ if you’re playing a tickly game, game on the xbox or listening to music for example, you could ask your child if they want more or if they want to stop. Good luck!

Top Tip 3: Now & Next

 Not only are there things we all like to do, there’s also things we’re not so keen to do like the ironing, cleaning the oven or emptying the dishwasher! We understand that this is part of everyday life but this can be tricky for our children and young people to accept!

If your child appears reluctant to do something they’re not so keen on, you can support them by breaking the activity down and interspersing it with something they really like. For example if your child wants to play in the bath and really doesn’t want to wash you could say ‘Now wash next bath toys’. You can use this strategy for all sorts of tasks.

It’s important to use really simple language so they have enough time to process what you’re asking. Otherwise too much information may mean they only focus on the negative activity.

Here’s a few examples you can try at home:

  • Meal times – you could say ‘5 spoons of dinner then pudding’ or ‘Now dinner next play’.
  • Getting ready – ‘First getting dressed then iPad’.
  • Going out – ‘First Tesco’s then park’.
  • Sharing/taking turns – ‘Now Dad’s turn next your turn’.

You could use these signs to support your speech as well as pointing to objects or pictures For example, you could say ‘Now (sign) lunch (point to their plate) next (sign) garden (point outside). Good Luck!

Top Tip 4: Sabotage!

‘What has sabotage got to do with communication?’ I hear you cry…..well, sabotage is a great way of providing pupils with opportunities to practise their communication skills in everyday situations. In particular, asking for help. Because we care for our children, sometimes we give them what they need or want without them having to ask. However sometimes it’s a good idea not to!

Here’s something for you to try at home:

Have a think about some situations where you can provide your child with opportunities to practise asking for help. Here’s a few ideas….when giving your child a drink, give them an empty cup…..put their favourite DVDs out of reach…..don’t automatically open a yoghurt pot…… there are lots of opportunities! When you try this, wait for your child to signal they need help, then you can say ‘oh you want help’ and model the sign.