The Springfields Academy

Reach South Academy Trust

Our central mission is for Reach South pupils to aspire to achieve beyond the expectations that others place on them.

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COmmuNication and Interaction

Developing functional communication skills is at the heart of everything we do. We intent for all our Discovery learners to be confident social communicators and active learners.

Total Communication Environment: 

To nurture functional communication a fundamental for the Discovery Curriculum is a ‘Total Communication Environment’ which includes:

  • Natural gesture
  • Speech
  •  Vocal sounds
  • Using different tones, pitch or volume of the voice
  • Communication aids
  • PECS
  • Signs e.g. Makaton
  • Symbols
  • Photo
  • Pictures
  • Objects of reference 
  • Sensory cues

Our (semi-formal) Discovery  learners also need a responsive environment, through which they:

  • obtain responses to what they do;
  • are given opportunities to respond to other people;
  • are able to initiate interactions and an adult/peer responds appropriately;
  • have good role models who can model correct language/sentence structure.

The SCERTS communication curriculum:

We use the SCERTS Communication Curriculum to develop communication skills for our Discovery learners. SCERTS is a structured and sequenced communication framework which enables us to ensure our pupils are making progress

Social Communication

The aspirational goal for all Discovery learners is to become confident and competent communicators so that they are able to actively participate in social activities. Learners who are able to communicate effectively are have access to increased opportunities for play and learning and are able to participate more fully in enjoyable social relationships.

Social Communication skills are needed to participate and learn:

•        Understanding intentions

•        Expressing preferences, needs and emotions

•        Sharing ideas and playing with others

•        Communicating for a variety of purposes

•        Initiating interactions

•        Imaginative play

•        Relating to peers

•        Understanding routines and expectations

Within the SCERTS programme social communication is split into 3 stages, which are:

Social Partner Stage

Children may develop the ability to communicate intentionally with gesture and/or vocalisations

Languages Partner Stage

Learners communicate for a purpose using symbols, signs and/or words

Conversational Partner Stage

Learners use words, phrases and sentences. They begin to learn how to engage fully in conversations. Pupils begin to develop an understanding of the feelings and thoughts of others.

Learners following the SCERTS programmer are all set a goal linked to the development of their Social Communication skills.  These targets come from 2 areas, which are Joint Attention and Symbol Use. 

Examples of Social Communication targets  from all 2 levels are shown below.

Joint Attention

(The ability to share attention, emotion and intention with partners)

Symbol Use

(The ability to use objects, pictures, words or signs to represent things)

Social Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • engages in interactions with others
  • initiates social routines/game/interactions
  • shifts gaze between people and objects

Social Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • imitates familiar actions or sounds
  • uses familiar objects conventionally in play
  • uses gestures and nonverbal means to communicate

Language Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • understands and uses words / symbols to express a range of emotions
  • comments on actions or events
  • shares experiences


Language Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • uses words and word combinations to express meanings
  • uses a variety of objects in constructive play
  • understands a variety of words and word combinations without contextual cues

Conversational Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • monitors the attentional focus of others
  • shares experiences in interactions 
  • increasing ability to understand and talk about past and future events


Conversational Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • learns by imitation, observation, instruction and collaboration
  • understands nonverbal cues of turn taking and topic change
  • follows rules of conversation


Emotional Regulation

This is another aspect of the SCERTS curriculum.

This is the ability to be actively engaged and be able to adapt to different situations. The learner's ability to regulate emotional arousal so they are more able to attend to, process and filter environmental and sensory information is the focus of this section. When our learners are emotionally and sensory regulated they are more likely to be ready for learning.

 We recognise that in order to be ready to engage and learn a learner needs to be able to:

  • Attend to the most relevant information in an activity or setting
  • Remain socially engaged with others
  • Process verbal and non-verbal information
  • Initiate interactions using appropriate communication strategies
  • Respond to others in reciprocal interaction
  • Actively participate in everyday activities
  • Understand Levels of emotional regulation strategies

Within SCERTS we look at a learner's ability to deal with their emotions, feelings and sensory needs within three levels, which are:

Behavioural Level:

Learner uses simple motor actions or sensory-motor strategies to regulate their arousal level, remain alert, and/or self-soothe these can include behaviours such as rocking or spinning an object and having a hand massage.

Language Level:

Learner uses words or symbol to regulate their arousal level, such as using an individual timetable or saying “It’s ok”. At this stage learners are learning about a wide range of emotions and how to deal with emotions appropriately.

Metacognitive Level (Knowing about knowing):

The learner is able to think about, plan  and talk about ways of helping themselves regulate

Within the Social, Language and Conversational Partner Stages there are targets related to developing the learner's ability to self-regulate their emotions and sensory needs and well a respond to mutual regulation strategies from others.

Transactional Support

Transactional Support is the planned supports and strategies that adults use to help the learner participate in social interactions and everyday activities.

The SCERTS programme focused on ensuring that the adults within school provide the correct supports for learners at all times in order for learners to achieve set objectives. These supports take the form of:

Interpersonal support: 

This refers to the way that communication partners (adults or peers); adjust their language, interaction styles and how they provide models of play and behaviour for individuals.

Learning support:

Ensuring that the environment and activities are structured in a way that ensures social communication and emotional regulation are encouraged.

For more information on SCERTS please follow this link to the SCERTS website: 

SCERTS Website