At Birch Wood School we have a Communication and Therapy team.

The team is made up of communication lead, speech and language therapy team, vision support teacher, hearing impaired teacher, music therapist, AAC teacher, communication mentors, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

As a team we work closely with each other to support student’s communication and therapy needs. We also work directly with parents and school staff.

Communication is of key importance for all students. All methods of communication are valued and encouraged across the school day.

Communication is a key focus at Birch Wood. Some students have additional therapy sessions to develop their communication skills.

We work towards a ‘total communication environment’ where speech and language, objects of reference, body signs, photographs, Makaton signing, symbols and AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) are used throughout the school day, to assist our students to understand and communicate to the best of their abilities.

Visual Timetables enable our young people to understand what they are doing over a period of time such as the school day. They give structure to the day and help reduce anxiety levels. Symbols are used to represent the tasks, activities or lessons and these are taught to the pupil. Some visual timetables have an objects of reference on them as well.

Some students need a communication book to support they communication. These are pointing books and are individual to each student. The students have a core vocabulary page with symbols and they will be working on building sentences.

PECS means – picture exchange communication system. It supports student’s communication by exchanging photographs/pictures or symbols for an object with others.

Some students use Big Macks to request a choice or to say a simple message. Students press the button to communicate. It can also provide opportunities to do intensive interaction to model sounds and language.

Switches are used by our young people to access ICT. We have switch adapted toys which switch on and off by the students pressing the switch. They help the students request more of an activity or to stop, this will develop a young person’s understanding of cause and effect.

An object of reference is any object which is used to represent an item, activity, place or person. Understanding real objects is the first stage of symbolic development.  Objects of reference are used with young people who find it difficult to understand spoken words, signs, symbols or photograph. For example – a cup is introduced to the student before a drink.

As you walk around our school you will see sound buttons with an object of reference with it. They help students to navigate their way around our school by saying where they are.

Some students have access to eye gaze technology throughout the week. They use eye gaze to play games with friends or to make simple choices.

Eye gaze or eye tracking is a way of accessing your computer or communication aid using a mouse that you control with your eyes. They system follows your eyes with amazing accuracy to see where you are looking on the screen.