Everyone communicates, and everyone communicates using a range of different methods (or modalities). Usually, one modality is dominant - the spoken word for most of us, signing for Deaf communities - and increasingly, for all of us, digital forms delivered via technology: pictures, films, emojis, print... Families and other interactive partners are always interpreting all our communications - so, for example, I know exactly what my son-in-law means to convey by a particular smile - other people who don't know him well wouldn’t be so sure!
For children and young people who have difficulties with spoken language, these other modalities become really important. It’s well known that the natural language of Deaf people is sign, but hearing children too will develop their own patterns of language and communication using different combinations of modalities. To help them communicate effectively, we need to build up a picture of what they use to achieve particular communication purposes or “functions”, with whom, and in what settings. We need to observe closely what they are already doing, and value their choices, before we embark on a formal assessment, and then dedicated intervention to expand and strengthen their range..
On the following link you’ll find a template for observing, creating a child’s patterns of communication. I’ve called this an “audit” because it will provide us with a summary of what we need to know. It can be used by speech pathologists and teachers: I developed it in classrooms and then as a guide for families. Ideally, this needs to be done carefully and thoroughly over a period of time (say 3 days). For some children, who are rather infrequent spontaneous communicators, you may be able to record everything. But if your child communicates a lot, don’t feel overwhelmed. Instead, choose some periods of time, maybe 10 minutes every hour when they are with you, to do the records. Just make sure you note down what you are doing.
This is not designed to replace but to complement your existing records, including formal and diagnostic assessments and educational plans.
Click here to download template