Communication, Speech & Language

Signing & Signalong

Pitcheroak School is a SIGNING school and Signalong is used in school to empower our pupils to understand and express their needs. Together with other communication strategies we equip pupils with the necessary skills for them to be able to make independent choices and develop their own language skills.

By using Signalong, we aim to:

  • Give greater independence to pupils
  • Reduce the feelings of frustration and episodes of challenging behaviour
  • Improve pupils’ self- esteem
  • Improve relationships between pupils and between staff and pupils
  • Encourage greater levels of social and academic inclusion for pupils

For those pupils who are unable to communicate effectively using speech we explore other augmentative and alternative methods to enable them to have a voice. Natural gesture supported by body language, facial expression and tone of voice are all used by everyone of us to convey meaning. Signalong is an unaided augmentative form of communication that supports expressive and receptive language skills.

Signalong helps in the following ways:

  • It enables communication
  • It is appropriate for a range of disabilities
  • It supports ‘multi-channel input’ supporting auditory messages that are not processed quickly
  • It encourages eye contact and concentration
  • It does not require additional equipment

Collectively the population of pupils at Pitcheroak cover a broad spectrum of Speech, Language and or Communication difficulties. It is therefore crucial that every member of staff gains a working knowledge of Signalong, even in an environment where speech is the universal means of communication.

All staff that work at Pitcheraok are each Augmentative and Alternative Communication users ensuring equality of opportunity and social inclusion for our entire community.

Speech & Language Therapy

We are fortunate that we work with an NHS speech and language therapist at Pitcheroak. We feel that developing communication skills is a shared responsibility and the best way of helping your child’s communication skills is by parents, carers, teaching staff and therapists working together. This involves sharing information and practical ideas on how to help. Communication difficulties are often more appropriately managed in the classroom and at home, where skills can be developed in a meaningful environment. 

Dani Betts

Speech and Language Therapist

Autism & Complex Communication Needs (CCN)

Autism is a lifelong developmental condition that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they experience and perceive the world around them.

It is a spectrum condition, which means that, while all people with autism share four key areas of difference/difficulty and the impact of differences within each of the four areas may affect them differently. Some people with autism are able to live independent lives but others may need a lifetime of specialist support.

The four areas of difference that are particularly important for staff in schools and educational settings to understand are:-

  1. Understanding and using social interaction and  emotional expression of staff, self and peers.
  2. Understanding and using communication and language – both verbal and non-verbal.
  3. Understanding differences in how information is processed which can lead to a strict adherence to routines and rules and/or difficulties in planning and personal memory. Children and young people on the autism spectrum have difficulties in predicting what will happen when a familiar timetable or activity changes. Conversely, such styles of processing can lead to strengths and abilities in a number of areas (often related to factual memory or areas of interest and motivation).
  4. Differences in the way sensory information is processed often leading to over sensitivities (often to external stimuli such as lighting, smells, or sounds), and under sensitivities (often not noticing internal feelings such as pain, body awareness and hunger, until they become overwhelming). It should be noted that sensory sensitivities can lead to ‘extreme levels of stress and anxiety in unfamiliar or over-stimulating environments’ (taken from the AET National Autism Standards, 2012)

Children and young people with Complex Communication Needs may have difficulties which present as similar to autism.