Date
20 June 2024

Support communication

Respond to communication needs with personalised teaching and learning activities and approaches.

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Support understanding

Support understanding

Takiwātanga - autism can mean that students find understanding other people challenging.

Understanding others

  • Use fewer words
  • Slow down the rate of speaking
  • Give students more time to process information
  • Use clear, concise information with supporting visuals whenever possible.

Understanding abstract language such as sarcasm, metaphors, exaggeration, absolutes or humour

  • Teach and support understanding of abstract concepts
  • Avoid absolutes as students may take these literally
  • Use terms such as “usually” to avoid absolutes, for example, “We usually play at about 11am”.

Understanding gestures, facial expressions, or body language and applying to social situations

  • Teach students to recognise, interpret and respond appropriately to gestures, facial expressions, or body language.
  • Teach, model and practise conversation, social and interpersonal skills such as turn taking and questioning.

Ask students what works for them

Ask students what works for them

Ask students what communication approaches they prefer.

Support expressive and oral language

Support expressive and oral language

Communication skills are a priority learning need for some autistic students.

Oral language encompasses any method of communication the child uses as a first language, for example New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) systems that replace or augment speech.

  • Provide ample opportunities for students to make their feelings, thoughts and needs known.
  • Give students a heads up, when possible, so they can prepare their response.
  • Give students time to respond.
  • Explicitly teach non-verbal communication strategies, such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language.
  • Explicitly teach skills associated with social interactions, such as joining a group, taking part in two way conversations, and reading non-verbal cues.
  • Talk directly to the student, not to their support person.

For students who use a specialised communication tool or system:

  • they should always have access to it
  • model communication using their tool or system.

Honour student contributions

Honour student contributions

Listen to students and honour their contributions.

Understand AAC systems

Understand AAC systems

Understand and support ākonga that use augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems to meet their communication needs.

Understand the role of AAC systems

  • Students may communicate non-verbally using an AAC system. AAC is a term to describe methods that can help people to communicate non-verbally.
  • Non-verbal communication systems use a variety of techniques including sign language, gestures, visuals, written communication, or specialised communication boards and communication technologies.
  • Students who use specialised communication boards and technologies communicate by selecting from an increasingly complex range of communication symbols or choices.
  • Some digital systems speak words aloud for the student.

 

Support AAC users under the guidance of the student’s Speech Language Therapist. 

  • Make sure that the AAC device is consistently available, within and across settings.
  • Model communication using their tool or system.
  • Respond to AAC communication promptly, appropriately, and consistently.
  • Prompt ākonga to use their AAC system when making requests and expressing themselves.
  • Help them to give language to what they are feeling, especially after experiencing challenges.
  • Set up opportunities to teach use of the AAC device by scheduling daily practice sessions and embedding opportunities throughout the day.
  • Teach peers how to use the AAC device. If possible, give peers their own AAC devices.

 

See the Speech, language and communica­tion needs Inclusive Education Guide for more information.

Useful resources

Useful resources

Website

Supporting students with speech, language and communication needs

Outlines speech-language therapy support for children with speech, language and communication needs.

Visit website

Website

What are AAC devices and how can they help my child?

Describes key communication device types.

Publisher: Westside Children's Therapy

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Website

How students with limited verbal capabilities can thrive in inclusive classrooms

Summary of key ideas and links to video examples.

Publisher: Edutopia

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Website

Aided language stimulation explained

Video showing the importance of modelling language using modes the student uses.

Publisher: Loudon County Public Schools Assistive Technology

Visit website

Next steps

More suggestions for implementing the strategy “Key areas of support”:

Return to the guide “Autism and learning”

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