In our dealings with and our teaching of young people with Autism we have to take very great care of our own actions, this includes our behaviour but also our language. We modify our language for a number of reasons for effective and meaningful communication, as a teaching tool and as a support to behaviour management.
Whilst we run a total communication environment at the school, the term is open to misuse and misinterpretation. Often Total Communication is seen in schools as an environment structured to offer a wide range of communication experience using speech, signing and other augmentive communication modalities across the classroom and class.
This catch all approach is useful in some instances to support for example global delay and cueing in of non-English speakers. For children with Autism functional speech and communication are key to their educational attainment and their ability to integrate into society.
The total communication structure for The Island Project School is based around differentiating and supporting communication in all areas and situations to allow pupils to use and gain a functional and effective communication modality. Speech is highly prized as it is the common communication method in our society but PECs, signs, VOCA, and modified speech all play a role in giving the pupils as much communication independence as possible.
Communication to be functional relies on relevance to the user, this is the area where the Island Project excel all area's, lessons and times in the day are communication differentiated pupil by pupil. Being aware of the abilities of pupils regarding receptive and expressive language is the basis for our practice, it is frustrating and pointless to ask pupils who have little receptive understanding questions to instigate discussion unless they have a formal understanding of the question, i.e. it has been pre-taught and or it supported by an understood cue e.g. PECS symbol or printed word.
Here at the Island project school we believe that looking to our own training and practice is vital, taking the speech and language targets into naturalistic environments is sensible, remembering that communication is a two way street and engaging is crucial.