Being able to communicate effectively is a skill that most of us take for granted. It is so important that children learn not only how to understand the communications of others but that they are able to express their own feelings, thoughts and needs to others. This is something that is a 'given' in mainstream education, but in the world of children with Severe and Complex learning difficulties communication becomes a far more complex issue.
Ace Base children have a wide range of communication abilities and difficulties. We have some children who have difficulty in pronouncing certain speech sounds and some who have a very limited range of spoken words that they know how to use, and need extra clues to help them understand the communications of others or express themselves. Some of our children rely entirely on alternative forms of communication in order to get their meaning across and their needs met.
Here are some of the communication methods that we use here in Ace Base; not every child will use each one of these methods, but each of them is aware of how they work and who they best work for.
Our most commonly used alternative communication method is Sign. We use 'Signalong' every day here in Ace Base. Heather Hurt, Unit Manager, is a registered Signalong tutor, and Nicky Buttery, SESO, has completed the Signalong Foundation Course.
Signalong is a 'sign supporting' system that has been developed to help children and adults to acquire language skills and to help where there are communication difficulties. It is always used alongside spoken language, and indeed ENCOURAGES spoken language. Many people with communication problems find the trauma of being unable to make themselves understood so demoralising that they avoid speaking wherever possible, especially to people unfamiliar with their particular problems. Signalong is designed to relieve the stress caused by difficulties in communication. Many people with learning difficulties have poor concentration and signing helps them to focus.
Anyone that is interested in learning more about Signalong can speak to Heather Hurt. There are regular workshops and short courses run by the Isle of Man's Signalong team that will give a basic knowledge of Sign and how it can be used to best effect.
Another regularly used and very effective communication method is the First and Then board.