Category Archives: Communication Series

Communication Series – Signing: Choose a noise

Signing: Choose a noise


So this might seem like an unusual choice for an early post on signing but I chose it because a student I worked with a while back, who has autism and profound and multiple learning difficulties really enjoyed listening to his staff members may different animal sounds. That’s an interesting image for you I’m sure – a whole load of Teaching Assistants running around making chicken and cow noises.

We were later able to develop this into a range of games which he loved – but the first thing we did was use it encourage the use of signing since this was a communication method he had started to take to. So – there’ll be links throughout that will take you to pictures demonstrating BSL for the words, and at the end I’ll link to ASL as well.

Choosing some animals is the best place to start, ones with easily imitated noises is always a bonus but you can always YouTube and try and learn to copy the noises of more obscure animals on there. The first ones we started with were: cow, monkey, and dog.

As I mentioned above, the student I supported had complex needs, so every day we would make sure there were regular sessions of Intensive Interaction and it was leading on from these that we would start doing animal noises, whilst his attention was engaged. If you made one of the noises he would quickly rush over to you and tilt his head so that you could make the noise next to his ear.Then with each repetition he would giggle hysterically. He was quite happy to accept physical prompting for signing so that’s how we taught him – I would make a cow noise. He would rush over and before he had a chance to get upset that I wasn’t making another noise, another staff member would prompt him to make the sign for cow. We then reinforced this at other points in the day by linking in his literacy work so that we had stories that gave us the opportunity to sign animals.

Over time we were able to slowly faded the physical prompting, and that was when we were faced with working out trying to encourage him to choose between the two. For this we added in visual supports – which had the added bonus of beginning to teach him the skills needed for a second method of communication such as PECS or an AAC device. We would make the noises, holding up the animal cards as we did, and then place the cards in front of him and encourage him to choose which one. As he got used to the activity, he would pick up one of the cards and look at me – and we interchanged either modelling the sign to him and then making the noise, or prompting him to make the sign and then making the noise.

This easy game was a big favourite of his, and over time we added other animal signs. It has to be said that perhaps this game doesn’t teach the most functional signs and that should be considered when deciding how long to spend on it, but for some young people it is an entertaining way of making signing a part of their play and literacy.

Until next time!

Disclaimer: The opinions and information provided in this post are my own, and based on personal, educational, and work-based experience. They do not reflect the opinions of any of the authors of the content referenced in this post. I am not affiliated or supported by any organisation, and this is meant to be an educational series of posts. The information posted here is not a substitute for advice and information provided by your own GP, speech and language therapist, occupational therapist or other professional in the field of autism, and should not be taken as such.

Communication Series – Core Board: Playdough

Core Board: Playdough


Core boards can be adapted and used for a wide range of activities – both in home and at school. They can provide an easy visual support for both the individual and their communication partner. Of course they have their limitations, unless you’re going to create a communication board that’s hundreds of squares big there’s always going to be things missing. However, they have their place so in this post I’m going to look at ways to use a communication board during play dough play.

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Communication Series – Extra bits between Phase II and III

Extra bits between Phase II and III


Before moving on to Phase III, I thought it would be useful to briefly discuss some of the additional skills that can be taught that will benefit the student in using PECS.

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Communication Series – PECS Phase II

PECS Phase II – Distance and Persistence


If your student has mastered Phase I and is consistently exchanging a card for an item of their preference, you’re ready to move onto the next stage. Obviously, their PECS book isn’t going to always be conveniently placed in front of them, and their communication partner isn’t going to be patiently waiting for them to hand over the card. Sometimes we’re busy, sometimes the book’s on the floor… You get the idea.

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Communication Series – Identifying Motivators and Demotivators

Identifying Motivators and Demotivators


I have mentioned motivators and demotivators before in the communication series, but just to reiterate I specifically mean identifying things that the student is motivated to communicate for, and things they are not. Demotivators is not a synonym for adversives.

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Communication Series – What are Objects of Reference?

What are Objects of Reference?

Objects of reference are a physical version of visual timetables. They might be used in place of visual time tables for a number of reasons, for example if a student doesn’t yet understand that pictures represent items or events, or if a student is more of a tactile learner than a visual learner.

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Communication Series – Adding Symbol Recognition to Jars

Adding Symbol Recognition to Jars and Further Development


If your student has taken to the use of “stuff in jars” very well then you might be wondering how best to progress. After all, everything they want isn’t always going to be conveniently available in jars. Even if it was, wouldn’t it just be better to teach them how to open the jars to be independent? This is where the work with jars slowly begins to merge into Phase I PECS.

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Communication Series – Yes/No boards

Word Selection – Introducing Yes/No boards

Yes no board

It is difficult to decide where to start with the area of word/letter selection; and whilst I briefly discussed Facilitated Communication and Rapid Prompting Method and their controversies in the introductory post and therefore could extend on them – I decided it would be better to go with a more positive and practical post.

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