Total Communication

‘The ability to understand others, express views and contribute to personal decision making is a basic human right…’

Total Communication is a holistic view of communication, often using a range of approaches or even thinking “outside the box” to create a system of communication that works for an individual. Other definitions of Total Communication include:

  • Using any means and every means to communicate and/or receive a message.
  • Creating a best fit system of communication to facilitate an individual to communicate, optimizing his skills and reducing his impairments.
  • A “catch-all” that ensures that an individual has access to some means of communication.

At Kingfisher we aim to give children the foundations of communication for life, without which we are restricting their potential to communicate with people beyond their immediate home or school environment.  Ultimately we want all children to be able to communicate in an appropriate way with as broad an audience as possible in order for them to have access to a wide range of life opportunities and to participate and contribute as fully as they can.

Total Communication helps people make choices and be involved in making decisions about their life, increasing their independence.

Total Communication aids you in communicating in many different ways which is important for everybody as part of a wider society.

At Kingfisher we provide a range of strategies and approaches, which aim to enable all children to develop communication strategies most appropriate to them.  Our two main “catch all” whole school strategies in use are Signalong and symbols.  These two strategies are used across school, in all environments and by all staff in order to give enriched communication cues to all children.

Signing whilst speaking gives children additional visual cues to aid their understanding and symbol timetables for example, further support children in what is happening through the day.

We use a range of strategies in addition to these in developing a personalised communication plan for children who require it and these are set up in conjunction with Speech and Language Therapy (SaLT) to ensure every child has access to appropriate strategies related to their stage of development. Including Intensive Interaction, On Body Signing, PECS ect.

Total Communication approaches can be high tech, low tech or no tech.  Training for staff is planned for in a structured and appropriate way.

Cath Hayes – Total Communication Assistant

Cath Hayes is a Total Communication Assistant across both Kingfisher and Halcyon Way Special Schools. She is passionate about communication and giving all children a voice to unlock their full potential in all areas of their life. She promotes and supports Total Communication to ensure all  approaches and strategies are understood and implemented consistently across both schools. She has developed communication and computing systems across the schools which continue to be developed and extended to meet the children’s ever changing needs.

Cath’s role sits within the Specialist Support team. She  works in collaboration with numerous Speech and Language Therapists to deliver targeted interventions, support and up skill staff and make bespoke resources to meet the individual needs of the children. Cath also develops links with outside agencies who promote and support the school i.e. BBC and Inclusive Technology She has written a number of rationales and guides and researched and developed a Fun with Food session. This supports children who have eating difficulties and helps staff to support them effectively.

Cath has an Elklan Level 3 qualification in Speech and Language Support for children with Severe Learning Difficulties and has recently become a Lead Communication Practitioner through gaining her level 4 qualification. This was achieved through training and supporting all the staff in communication and language development which led to the school being awarded Communication Friendly Accreditation.

Cath is also a Signalong tutor who supports this approach across both schools.  She delivers training to both staff and parents, shares the sign of the week in school and with parents through social media.

Cath also writes, develops and implements a variety of staff training and development sessions both internally and externally supporting colleagues in the borough through the Teaching School. Cath has also delivered training to Early Career Teachers by sharing best practice.

Social Stories

Please select a thumbnail below to read one of our social stories!

Communication Book New School Car
Communication Book New School Bus


Follow along with this half term’s Signalong video!

At Kingfisher we use Signalong as part of a Total Communication Approach.

Signalong has a large range of vocabulary and is very user friendly! The key point of Signalong is to use sign and spoken language together.

At Kingfisher we sign with the children throughout their school day using signs and speech to communicate key information.  For example if we are cueing the children in to dinner time we would sign and say ‘dinner time’ not “now it is time for us to go to dinner” – this gives the children a visual cue alongside key words, minimizing the amount of verbal language that needs to be processed.

At Kingfisher we are constantly using core vocabulary with the children to support their language development and then through each of our topics we introduce new signs and language, which extends their vocabulary further.  We also have two “Signs of the Week” which helps maintain and extend key knowledge and skills of everyday vocabulary.

Parent Signs 

We have created Signalong films for parents to help with learning core vocabulary and to support children’s use of Signalong at home. Our films demonstrate the signs for the following categories

Greetings and Commands

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