Best communication strategies for SEN teachers


Communication is a fundamental part of working with children who have special educational needs, as without it they’re unlikely to be able to fulfil their potential.

Both speaking and listening skills influence a child’s ability to understand, and SEN teachers have a responsibility to find ways to communicate with them effectively.

Some pupils might require tools or flashcards to communicate effectively, while others may look to nonverbal methods – each pupil will have a different set of needs, meaning a range of communication strategies will likely be needed.

Fortunately, there are numerous tools and resources available to aid SEN teachers, meaning you can find an approach that best suits the pupil you are supporting.

Recognising a range of needs

Some children with SEN will have highly complex needs, and this can make communicating with them a challenge.

However, it’s possible to adapt your teaching style and methodologies to best suit their needs, something that should be factored into any lesson planning and activities.

It’s also important to recognise the role that technology has to play in enhancing communication, especially when supporting pupils who may struggle to communicate verbally.

Most strategies will vary based on the special educational needs of a specific pupil, with a distinct focus on their physical, sensory or language needs, for example.

Others might focus on the social and emotional needs of the child, or place an emphasis on their attention or thinking needs, depending on their requirements.

The role of music

Music can be tied into learning in many different ways and can provide a means for pupils with SEN to communicate without explicitly needing to use words.

As music is open to interpretation, it can help pupils to express themselves and to enhance their understanding, making it a valuable tool in an SEN teacher’s arsenal.

Multi-sensory approaches can also serve to heighten the cognitive response of pupils with SEN and to help motivate them both in and out of the classroom.

Using movement/actions

Movement can help pupils to focus and acts as another means of self-expression, providing an alternative for those who are unable to say exactly what they want to.

It can also boost engagement, as pupils can look to associate certain actions with specific tasks and commands, again helping to enhance their understanding of certain classroom situations.

Visual aids

Pictures, symbols, photography and word cards are all useful assets that an SEN teacher can utilise to communicate and enhance understanding.

Some pupils are more suited to different elements of learning than others, so you should look to encourage them to indicate what they enjoy.

Ultimately, any communications strategies should be designed to allow pupils with special educational needs to express themselves as much as possible, as it will ensure they have the best chance to maximising their learning potential.

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