The Brier School

The Brier School

Preparing for life – Building on our strengths

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A Total Communication Approach

We all need to feel connected, and yet we all connect differently. That is why, at The Brier School, we use a total communication approach that supports our pupils to connect in the right way for each individual. By using this approach, we make the complicated simple and empower our pupils to communicate and express themselves – be it through speech or sign, touch or movement, gesture or sound, art or dance.


What is a total communication approach?

The total communication approach is about finding and using the right combination of communication methods for each individual. This approach helps to form connections, ensures successful interactions and supports information exchanges and conversations. A combination of methods are used, which reinforce each other and strengthen meaning for the individual.


Methods of communication

Here are some examples of different formal and non-formal types of communication that can be used:

  • Intensive Interaction
  • Gesture
  • Signing- Makaton
  • Verbalisation
  • Symbols
  • Photographs
  • Electronic devices


These methods of communication can be used in any combination and will be individual to the child. At The Brier School, we work closely with each pupil to identify preferred methods and how to maximise understanding and expression.


When looking at communication it is important to understand the two different types of language skills, expressive and receptive. How somebody expresses themselves can form a foundation for learning and offer a starting point on which to build communication development.


Expressive communication is when you are sending a message, this may be in response to another person or to initiate communication. Receptive communication is when you receive a message from another person. An individual’s expressive and receptive communication skills may not be the same. People will use a combination of the communication methods listed above, both expressively and receptively. For example, a person may receive and understand information in sign language and need symbols to help reinforce the meaning, but will use sign language and speech to express themselves.


The Brier total communication approach values and uses all methods of communication so that the children we support can communicate, understand and be understood.

Use the link below to view / download a copy of our Special Educational Needs Policy and Information Report.