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Listen first
Teacher listens to child

Listening to children and taking account of their views is the first key step towards empowering them and to assessing their quality of life. However, for many children with complex needs, expressing a view can be a major issue. For these children, establishing an effective communication system is the first and most important step.

Steps to develop a communication system

Watch the following video to find out how an effective communication system was put in place for Becky.

Consider the steps that Becky has had to go through to find a voice.

What positive effects have the establishment of this system had on the quality of Becky's life - both socially and in terms of her education?

What does the school have to do to make sure that Becky can communicate effectively in school?

  • Poster
Steps to develop a communication system
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You may have identified the following steps that Becky took to find a voice:

  • Becky learnt how to use switches such as BIGMacks to deliver simple pre-programmed messages
  • She learnt to scan rows and columns with her eyes to highlight particular items and to select them with a switch
  • As her ability to use switches declined, her parents identified a device that she could use through eye-pointing alone.

You may have identified that Becky's quality of life improved in the following ways:

  • By having her communication device attached to her wheelchair, Becky can use her voice anywhere in the school. This includes chatting with her friends during break times
  • She can tell people what she wants and needs (self-advocate)
  • She is now able to contribute in lessons and to respond to open questions in lessons.
Steps to develop a communication system
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Becky's teachers and support staff work hard to ensure that Becky's communication device contains all the vocabulary that she needs to communicate, both in and out of lessons.