Fiveways School
Specialists in Communication and Interaction

Communication Strategies

Here at Fiveways we pride ourselves on offering tailored support to every individual and their presenting needs. We ensure that all children are reviewed regularly by our onsite Speech & Language Team for their communication, language and speech difficulties. Once assessed, an individual care plan is designed collaboratively with staff, parents and support workers to ensure everyone is aware of how to work with the pupil and more importantly, how the pupil will communicate with us.

Fiveways has developed Communication & Interaction to be the centre of all learning and focus for the pupils. Fiveways use a Total communication approach to underpin all learning and language experiences.

What do we mean by Total Communication?

‘Total communication’ is a term used nationally for a multi-sensory approach to communication. A wide range of tools are used (gesture, body language, speaking, signing, objects, photographs, drawings, symbols together with written words and ICT) in order to establish supportive, inclusive environments.

Communication Hub

The communication hub is currently based in the communication and interaction suite aka the Blue Room. Here you will often find our Communication & Interaction Team.

Speech & Language Therapy – We aim to provide current SLT assessment of every child’s communication needs. The current care plan will be available for all staff and family members. Some children will receive direct speech and language therapy for a prescribed period of time and others will be supported by the teaching staff within class.

Specific Communication Strategies

We are able to offer a range of specific communication strategies which include:

Signing – At Fiveways we use STC sign language which is largely based on Makaton signing and British Sign Language finger spelling. Everybody is encouraged to sign as they talk. One of the benefits of signing as you talk is that this tends to keep the language structure simple and the speed of talking slower, which makes it easier for our children to understand.

Alternative & Augmentative Communication (AAC) – This refers to the use of signing and devices from low tech (an aid that requires no or very simple level of technology e.g. communication book or single message switch) to high tech aids (an aid that requires high levels of technology e.g. Eye Gaze, iPads and computers).

We aim to ensure that every child has a voice at all times, whether they are in the classroom or out on the playground. We are able to link with specialist colleagues in the education department and the NHS to ensure that children who have the ability to use high tech communication aids are seen promptly and referred on to specialist services.

Symbols – This refers to the use of one item to represent another. This might be an object of reference, a photograph, a picture or a Widgit symbol. The Widgit symbols are line drawings used to represent language.

Objects of reference – An ‘object of reference’ is, an object which has a particular meaning associated with it.  For example, a fork may be the object of reference for dinner.  The object is closely associated with and comes to represent another object, an activity, a person or an event.  These objects give the child information about what is going to happen if they are used consistently.  The important thing is that the same objects and methods are used. At Fiveways we also use “musical cues” these are auditory cues to enable a pupil to understand a transition time e.g. assembly. As a school we have standardised all objects of reference, musical cues and touch cues in order to support all children throughout their entire time at our school.

PECS – Picture Exchange Communication System: PECS begins by teaching an individual to exchange a picture of a desired item to a “communicative partner”, who immediately honours the exchange as a request. The system goes on to teach discrimination of pictures and how to put them together in sentences. In the more advanced phases, individuals are taught to answer questions and to comment.

We routinely use PECS with those children on the Autistic spectrum to teach them the interaction of communication.

Communication books – These are similar to a PECS book because they contain lots of pictures/symbols but no exchange is required. They are used for those children who understand the interaction of communication but have difficulty with saying words.

The children can use their book to point at the pictures to communicate. In time they will learn to point out simple sentences and use their communication book to comment, to request and to answer questions. Communication books can be developed from something quite simple into a complex communication system.

Communication Aids – these range from the use of a switch with a pre-recorded message such as “Good Morning” through to devices that can say anything that a child might wish to say e.g. request, comment, control, interact, tell jokes and have fun.

Eye Gaze Technology – An infra-red camera that tracks exact movements of your eye’s pupil. We use it for visual assessments as well as training students to use their eyes communicatively. Through eye gaze a student may develop their learning, their ability to play games and have fun, the possibility of controlling their environment and maybe to one day have their own dedicated voice output communication aid (VOCA). 

Intensive interaction - Intensive interaction is an approach to teaching the pre-speech fundamentals of communication to children and adults who have severe learning difficulties and/or autism and who are still at an early stage of communication development.

TACPAC - Tacpac® is a revolutionary activity pack that combines touch and music to promote communication and social interaction, sensory, neurological and emotional development.


Every class is working to highlight the importance of communication. Within every class we are developing designated boards that inform staff of all the pupils’ expression and understanding levels; these are known as communication profiles. They are to support staff in ensuring they provide the right environment for every child.

A future development for Fiveways is to create personal passports for all children to assist any person coming in to contact with them on how to communicate with them at the appropriate level.

Symbols are used throughout Fiveways. We have worked hard to standardise all symbols and create an environment that is supported visually wherever possible.

Links to communication websites:


Intensive Interaction -



Smartbox (Eye Gaze) -

Symbols –

Communication Matters –

If you wish to find out more about communication here at Fiveways, please contact:

The Speech & Language Department - 01935 476227
01935 476227