Communication Approaches

How do we know what is a suitable communication system for individual students?

We work in partnership with parents, class teams and outside agencies and hold communication assessments for our students. The assessment identifies appropriate resources to support the development of communication and learning, and facilitate greater independence.

What communication systems are used at Park Lane?

At Park Lane we pride ourselves with endeavouring to find a system that works for an individual, below is a range of systems that you can expect to see at Park Lane


PECS is a specific type of AAC support that is used to facilitate communication by teaching an individual to give 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 into sentences. In the more advanced phases, individuals are taught to answer questions and to comment. Some staff in school have been previously trained on the use of PECS within school.

Communication books

A communication book provides pages of symbols, usually organised by topic. Depending on the age, ability or physical abilities of the student, the page may have anything from one to many symbols on a page. At Park Lane size of books or cells on a page vary as books are individual to each student and their needs.


Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display (PODD) is normally a book or device that contains symbols and words to support communication between people with complex communication needs and their communication partners, whether that's carers, family, friends or support workers.


Signalong is a key word sign-supported communication system based on British sign language and is used in spoken word order. It uses speech, sign, body language, facial expression and voice tone to reference the link between sign and word. It is a valuable and effective way to support both expressive and receptive language. Only key words are signed and students are encouraged to use signs to make requests, to comment and to answer questions. Signs are taught as part of vocabulary development opportunities during core subject and topic lessons where appropriate to the needs of the students. Through a Total Communication approach students learn to use signing to support their access to learning and communication; helping to break down barriers in their receptive and expressive speech and language skills. In order to maintain a high level of competency among all staff we have regular signing CPD which is led by our qualified Signalong tutors. The sign of the week is shared with parents and carers via our school Facebook page.

Eye gaze

Eye gaze or eye tracking is a way of accessing your computer or communication aid using a mouse that you control with your eyes. At Park Lane we have two eye gaze systems that a number of students access.

E-Tran frames

An E-Tran frame can be used to introduce and use eye-pointing as a means of indication of pictures, and symbols (or letters, numbers, words) for communication. The frame is placed in front of the student, with meaningful communication placed around its edges, facing the child.

Intensive interaction

Intensive Interaction is an approach designed to help people at early levels of development, people who have severe,        profound or complex learning difficulties and people who have autism. ... Intensive Interaction teaches and develops interaction and communication by doing and taking part in interaction and communication.

Individual Communication systems

Individual communication systems/dictionaries: you will find copies of students individual communication dictionaries on the communication wall in school, these dictionaries can consist of a student’s ‘version’ of a sign, their own personalised signs that they have used consistently and developed their own unique form of communication or a combined system of Signalong, Tassels and on body signs.


Prolquo2go: this is an app on an iPad where students can navigate through folders to convey the message they want to send to their communication partner, the programme speaks the message they have chosen using the symbol cells.

Transition Visuals / Objects of Reference (OoR)

On the door of each room in school, there is a symbolised sign to represent the room along with an object of reference and voice output device. This in turn reinforces the child’s understanding of where they are going next and fosters their independence during times of transition. Each classroom door also has the names and pictures of all of the children based within that classroom.

Symbol Fobs

Symbols are adaptable, portable and can be used in most situations. They can help with understanding spoken language, avoid frustration and anxiety, and provide opportunities to interact with others. They make communication physical and consistent, rather than fleeting and inconsistent like spoken words can be.

Visual Timetables

Every class has a visual timetable and individual timetables for students where appropriate. Visual timetables are not just to let the student know what is going on and in what order but it's an important teaching tool too. Here are two of the main teaching opportunities:

  • Developing memory and recall skills. Seeing the structure of the day can help with memory skills for students who think better in pictures than in verbal language. The symbols can be retrieved from the 'finished' pocket to review the day and put things in time order.
  • Teaching organisation and independence skills. The student should be managing their own timetable. That means self-checking what they should be doing and where they should be, managing the taking off of the symbols and putting them in the finished pocket themselves.
  • Visual timetables grow with the student. They should be age and developmentally appropriate.  If we want our students to be able to develop good organisation skills, a visual timetable can be a great start.  In addition, whether you use objects, photos, symbols or for older students, written lists, the format can develop as the student does. Sometimes people think a student does not need it anymore and takes it away.  Then the student's behaviour and independence can begin to deteriorate. It is often the case that what they needed was an updated timetable rather than taking it away. It can surprise us how much the student was relying on their visual timetable. It is ok to have one all their lives - as they get older we teach them to self-manage their timetable more and develop their own formats if necessary. Like we do as adults with our diaries and lists. 

The visual timetable can be scanned horizontally or vertically at a height suitable for the student. When each activity on the timetable has been completed, the symbol is removed and placed by the student in the finished box. If something happens that falls outside of the normal routine, a different symbol (for example, surprise!) could be inserted.