A total communication approach allows individuals with communication difficulties to communicate in the most accessible way to them. Speech and language therapists will help to support individuals, and their families and carers to communicate to the best of their ability and as effectively as possible.

This approach helps an individual to form connections, increases their understanding and 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:

  • Non-verbal: including facial expression, gesture, body movements, breathing patterns and eye pointing. Textures, smells, temperature, intensive interaction and routine can also support communication by allowing an individual to anticipate what is going to happen next.

  • Language-based communication: including speech, lip reading, Tadoma, deafblind manual alphabet, giving and receiving information in large print, braille and block alphabet, and sign systems, including British Sign Language (BSL) and Makaton. Sign systems may be independent sign, on body sign or hand under hand sign.

  • Symbol systems: including using objects of reference (real objects and object symbols), Bliss, Widgit, Mayer-Johnson, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), line drawings, pictures and photographs.

These methods of communication can be used in any combination and will be individual to the person. The Speech and Language Therapist works closely with each person to identify preferred methods and how to maximise understanding and expression.