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Southview School Communication

At Southview School, communication is the foundation for learning.Positive relationships are vital-without a relationship there is no desire to communicate, and without communication, further learning won’t take place.

What is AAC?

AAC stands for augmentative and alternative communication-this is used to supplement or replace speech or writing for those with impairments in production or comprehension of spoken or written language.

What do our pupils get at Southview?

ConsistencyPredictable social routines and environment.

Good relationships with adults - who seek to understand them, and recognise small changes in expression, body language or vocalisations. Who recognise, validate and respond to unintentional communication. Who give time and support to early intentional communication. Who use simple language, toys, games and pictures. Who recognise that physical comfort must be ensured as an essential priority. Who use on-body signs, objects of reference, symbols and signs in a meaningful and relevant way for each child. Who are responsive to any indication that a child wishes to finish an activity. Who are aware of any hearing and sensory loss, or of sensory processing difficulties.

OpportunitiesTo lead and initiate interaction games. To participate in 1:1 interaction with familiar people in a relaxed and happy environment where adults are attentive and ready to respond and echo or mirror the smallest of communications from the child. To respond to familiar and less familiar adults. To hear and respond to spoken language, singing or music. To hear, respond to and show understanding of their own names and familiar early sounds and words. To work co-actively with familiar people, showing repeated activity. To show preference for particular people, objects and activities and time to process ‘more’ and ‘no more’ consistently through their responses. To respond with interest in the actions of adults close by (e. g make eye contact, turn towards, reaching out, vocalising)

TimeTo process information and engage actively in familiar social activities and events, for instance participating in a favourite action song or opening their mouth for a drink. To share joint attention in an object or activity. To share space and proximity with adults and peers. To process and communicate a choice of toy or activity by making sounds, gestures or eye pointing.

A multi-sensory curriculumWe have developed a curriculum at Southview for those pupils working at early stages of development, which takes account of individual preferences. Our sensory curriculum; Firm Foundations; recognises that our pupils working at early developmental levels have distinctly unique abilities and ways of learning.

A dedicated communication teamWho work to support the implementation of SaLT targets in classes, with individuals and groups of children. Who ensure that staff are kept up-to date with effective strategies to support children’s communication needs. Who strive to ensure children have the correct means to access their lessons, and to form meaningful relationships with others.

The Role of the Communication Team

The communication team at Southview act as a link between the Speech and Language therapy team, the staff and the children, helping to enable the targets in pupil’s individual EHCPs to be met. They support in the following ways….

  • Meeting with the teachers to help plan their topic work, with ideas about how AAC communication could support the pupil’s learning and participation in lessons. Consequently, resourcing the vocabulary needed. This may include symbols or vocab for hi-tech devices and all VOCA (voice output communication aid)
  • Working in class to support individual children, and to model good practice with using AAC
  • Taking small groups of children for specific communication work e.g attention and listening or Makaton signing skills.
  • Leading larger groups, working with children across classes who are working at early developmental levels, leading a sensory story or journey.
  • Running social interaction sessions for pupils using hi-tech communication devices, enabling them to cultivate and develop friendships with their peers. This is a strength of the school, as this particular cohort often struggle to form attachments with their peers due to the length of time it takes for them to access their communication devices to form sentences.
  • Liaising with parents, students and CASEE re communication devices.
  • Supporting parents re understanding and programming their children’s devices.
  • Leading staff training on communication matters. Latest ones include the use of on-body cues and Makaton signing.
  • Supporting a group of PMLD pupils to access the community with a communication focus, and following targets laid out in their EHC plan.
  • Leading ASDAN accredited communication lessons.
  • Keeping up-to-date with current good practice and strategies.

The Team

We work in collaboration with NHS and private speech therapists and with outside agencies to provide the very best for our children and young people.

Nikki Hammond
Communication Team Lead

Nikki has been a HLTA at Southview since 2007 and communication has always felt like a natural path for her. Nikki runs small groups and 1:1 sessions alongside the Speech and Language therapists, and acts as a link between the school and outside agencies such as CASEE and parents. Nikki is an advocate for each child/young person and their families. 

Wendy Day
Communication Team Teaching Assistant

Wendy has been a specialist communication teaching assistant at Southview for 13 years. She works directly alongside children either 1:1 or in small groups, and also works in classes supporting staff and modelling good practice. Her specialisms are in all forms of AAC, particularly hi-tech, and is also the local Makaton tutor. She is passionate about the rights of everyone to communicate at whatever level is appropriate for them.

Ore Rules for Communication in Classes

At Southview, communication is the foundation for learning


    • Allow learners TIME to respond
    • Create a QUIET environment
    • Stay FOCUSED on the child
    • Expect and accept ANY response
    • Give POSITIVE feedback.
    • MODEL good conversation skills between staff
    • ENCOURAGE communication between peers; listening/ asking questions and responding to each other, facilitated by adults
    • THINK AHEAD and ask children what you would like them to communicate


    • Assume children don’t understand
    • Try and second-guess their answers
    • Engage in adult conversation between each other during focused teaching time.
    • Ignore any attempts to communicate
    • Take control of a child’s communication-instead guide them.
    • Try and rush a child to answer questions, allow time for them to process the question and formulate a reply. This is especially true for device users.

Objects of Reference

Objects of reference are objects which have meaning assigned to them. They stand for something in much the same way as words do, whether spoken, signed or written. E.g. a child who cannot understand or express the idea of swimming by using speech, signing, writing or pointing to a symbol, may relate to being shown an armband as meaning the same thing. Objects of reference can represent activities, places or people. They are used in aiding memory, aiding understanding and to enable anticipation of events or aid expression.

Sensory Journeys

These are sessions which are aimed at eliciting responses from children working at early levels of language development. They follow a story which takes children through a variety of experiences in which they can use their senses of sight, touch, sound, taste and smell. Children are supported 1:1 and introduced to each aspect consistently, in the same order, and using the same resources every week, which helps build anticipation and relationships with their supporting adult.



Symbols are a visual representation of a word. They are used in aiding children who are yet unable to recognise the written word to request or comment. They help children understand the world, communicate their thoughts and learn to read and write.

Sometimes pupils use visual supports to aid with their understanding of the sequence of the school day. Visual timetables and Now and Next boards support children to understand what is happening next. Visual supports enable children to fully participate in lessons by asking and answering questions, and commenting on what is happening. 


Hi-Tech Devices

These are electronic aids to communication which are either controlled by direct access, eye scanning, or scanning and switching. Switching can be achieved in a number of ways depending on the physical ability of the individual. Advances in computer technology mean new hi-tech devices are becoming smaller and cleverer and have become the new way for many individuals to communicate.

Pupils who use these devices need time to coordinate questions, responses and comments, and the communication team are involved in programming devices, and working with teachers ensuring that appropriate vocabulary is on children’s devices in order for them to access the curriculum. Groups of children working at similar levels are often grouped together for social interaction sessions in order that they can communicate socially with peers.

There are a number of different types of devices, and finding the right match will depend on the nature of the communication disorder, and the physical and cognitive abilities of the individual. Some require the user to type their message, some have a few preloaded spoken messages, and other devices contain software packages that offer thousands of words and phrases, visual displays, and internet access. These devices can be accessed directly and many allow for switch access. For individuals with severe physical difficulties these devices provide more independence.

Makaton Signs

Makaton is a language programme that uses signs together with speech and symbols, to enable people to communicate. It supports the development of essential communication skills such as attention, listening, comprehension, memory and expressive speech and language.

At Southview we have regular signing session meetings with staff teams to support the use of core signs in addition to signs that may support specific topics. During periods of time when children were at home during lockdown, Zoom sessions were set up to facilitate signing at home for children and their parents.

On-body & Textured Cues

For those children who may have a range of additional needs, including sensory loss and very complex physical needs, on-body signs will be used. This will enable the child/young person to make sense of their world. The adult can communicate what is happening by using a reference point on the body. This helps create a signing environment which aids comprehension of the world around them and deepens the relationship with their communication partner. This is used in partnership with speech.

On-body cues - is an unspoken part of communication. On-body cue give information about what is going to happen.

Textured cues - are tactile symbols. Individuals use these as they begin to learn words have meaning.


  • School Address: Conrad Road, Witham, Essex, CM8 2TA / College Address: Conrad Road, Witham CM8 2SD

  • School: 01376 503505 / College: 01376 425372