Welcome to St George´s Special School

Total Communication

What is Total Communication?

It simply means communicating with people in the best ways that are accessible to them. It means not just talking but other ways too.

Here are some other ways:

  • Photos
  • Body language
  • Symbols
  • Signs
  • Gestures
  • Music
  • Intensive Interaction
  • Touch
  • Objects
  • Total Communication is easy.

Total Communication is an approach which encourages all the above forms of communication. We are probably all using some of these, and we might think of them as an ‘added extra’ when we communicate with each other and the world around us – signing for a drink in a noisy pub, following the smell of fresh bread to a bakery, or using a drawing to give directions to where we live.

However, for some people with communication difficulties, these so called ‘additions’ to speech and the written word are a lifeline. Without these ways of communicating, the world may not make much sense.

That’s where Total Communication comes in. It means using different ways of communicating according to each situation and person. Most importantly, it depends on us making the changes to our communication and doing the work, not expecting people with communication difficulties to tune into our ways of talking.

Why is Total Communication important?

For many people with learning disability, using different forms of communication is essential to let others know how we feel and what we think and to build relationships.

Here are some things we need communication for:

  • Choice
  • Relationships
  • Information
  • Expression
  • Self Esteem
  • Independence
  • Speaking up
  • Imagine what it would be like if you had a communication difficulty. What would you do in these situations
  1. you were a wheelchair user and at a friend’s house and couldn’t ask for a drink
  2. you wanted to say a thank you for a fantastic birthday present
  3. you were in a park in a strange town and needed to find a toilet
  4. you were fed up of people making up their minds for you and wanted to tell them to shut up

Communication is a basic right for everyone with learning disability.
The Government White Paper "Valuing People" has underlined the need for everyone to have equal access to communication in a way that is individual and relevant.

Here are some of the things The Government White Paper said:

"We believe that everyone should be able to make choices."

"The Government expects organisations working with disabled people to develop communication policies ... For those with severe disabilities this may require individual communication techniques."
(Valuing People, Chapter 2, 2001)

Valuing People Download The Government White Paper "Valuing People" as PDF