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Valence School

Communication & Interaction



I am Gemma Elliott, the Sevenoaks Teacher for Communication and Interaction (C and I). Together with Julia Hadaway from Milestone Academy, we support primary and secondary schools in the Sevenoaks District.

What do we mean by Communication and Interaction?

‘Children and young people with speech, language and communication needs (SLCN) have difficulty in communicating with others. This may be because they have difficulty saying what they want to, understanding what is being said to them or they do not understand or use social rules of communication. The profile for every child with SLCN is different and their needs may change over time. They may have difficulty with one, some or all of the different aspects of speech, language or social communication at different times of their lives.

Children and young people with ASC, including Asperger’s Syndrome and Autism, are likely to have particular difficulties with social interaction. They may also experience difficulties with language, communication and imagination, which can impact on how they relate to others.’ SEN Code of Practice

It is possible for children and young people to experience SLCN difficulties as a stand-alone issue.

Some C&I difficulties include:

difficulties with producing and/or responding to expressive or receptive language.

difficulties uttering speech sounds.

difficulties understanding spoken language and other forms of communication from others.

difficulties with understanding age-related social conventions of interaction, such as turn-taking during conversations, or appropriate level of physical contact during play.

Some possible Diagnoses

Autism (ASD / ASC)

Autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)

Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD)

Selective Mutism

Developmental Language Disorder (DLD)

Expressive & Receptive Language Difficulties



Visits to a child or young person who has been referred for Communication and Interaction, the Specialist Teacher may include:

Observations of the child or young person in class to observe child engagement and how they access whole class lessons

Observations at play, or during a targeted intervention

The use of formal or informal assessment tools to ascertain the child or young person’s needs, gaining knowledge of strengths and weaknesses

A consideration of effects of the working environment and sensory needs

A meeting with class teacher or SENCO to gather further background information

A meeting with parents if appropriate to ascertain their views

Meetings with class teacher, SENCO and parents to discuss and review outcomes and targets

Support for school staff with advice about training and resources for making appropriate adaptations to the curriculum

Support and advice at key transition times

Once the Specialist Teacher has met with the child or young person and explored what their barriers to learning are, they work closely with the teaching team to ensure that despite these difficulties, with appropriate adaptations the child or young person is able to access the same curriculum as their peers. The Specialist Teacher will meet with the class teacher or SENCO to agree targets that will support the child or young person and will enable the child or young person to access learning and discuss any additional resources or one to one support the child or young person might need. Often teachers will use these strategies with other children or young people in their class. Sometimes the Specialist Teacher may also advise that the child or young person needs a targeted intervention outside of the classroom to develop specific skills, e.g. to follow a speech and language or social skills programme. If needed training will be suggested for a particular intervention.

After the visit, the Record of Visit will be emailed to the SENCO with suggested targets, strategies, resources and training. The SENCO will then send home a hard copy to the child or young people’s parent/s and also adapt their personalised provision plan to reflect these new targets and strategies.

The Specialist Teacher will carry out a review visit to see whether the child or young person is making progress with the targets that have been set and address any issues that have arisen. If the school feel that the plan is going well, and the child or young person is making progress, the case may be closed. Sometimes there might be more than one review visit, depending on the complexity of needs.



Before accessing support from the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service, schools are expected to have followed the Graduated Response (Assess, Plan, Do, Review) and established that, despite good quality teaching and targeted support, the child or young person has still not made progress.


Initially, schools are required to identify possible communication and interaction difficulties through their usual assessment processes, seeking to identify children and young people making less than expected progress academically or socially given their age and individual circumstances.

This includes looking at whole school policies and practices, assessing and reviewing the quality of teaching and support in the child or young person’s class using guidance materials issued by KCC

A Risk Assessment should be carried out where appropriate.


Class teachers need to plan for any adaptations which need to be put in place to support a child or young person’s learning, to enable them to access the curriculum and make progress at school.

Class teachers need to consider whether a child or young person’s learning and progress could be helped by additional targeted support, such by following advice given by a Speech and Language Therapist (SALT) or using visuals or signing in addition to speech. All targeted support should be recorded on a Provision Map, Personalised Plan or Pastoral Support Plan. The child or young person and parents should be involved in creating the plan. If the child or young person is considered a risk of harm to themselves or to others, the school would normally complete a Risk Assessment to clarify ways of reducing the risk. 

We have provided links to useful resources and recommended websites to help you to put appropriate support plans in place.


Schools should allow time for new strategies to be carried out over a period of at least a term. This is the responsibility of the class teacher.


The class teacher with the SENCO, child or young person and parents should regularly review the Pastoral Support / Personalised Plans and Risk Assessments. The impact and quality of the support and interventions should be evaluated, along with the views of the child or young person and their parents. This should feed back into the analysis of the child or young person’s needs. The class or subject teacher, working with the SENCO, should revise the support in light of the child or young person’s progress and development, deciding on any changes to the support and outcomes in consultation with the parent and child or young person.

A referral to Social Services or referral for support in the home (Early Help) might be considered, depending on the level of support required.

At this stage it may be decided that it would be appropriate to refer to a Drop-In, Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT) meeting or other professionals for further support.



When and how to access support from the Specialist Teacher for Communication and Interaction?

Schools can access support at a Communication and Interaction Drop-In session or at a Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT) meeting.

Parental Agreement to Engage is required before these sessions can take place.

Before accessing support, schools are expected to have followed the Graduated Response (Assess, Plan, Do, Review) and established that, despite good quality teaching and targeted support, the child or young person has still not made progress. Schools will also need to provide evidence of what they have put in place with an evaluation of impact on a Personalised Plan.


Two types of advice sessions are run for children and young people with Communication and Interaction (C and I) difficulties. These discussions usually take place at Valence School. These are available to help SENCOs identify and support children and young people with possible communication and interaction difficulties, who have not usually been through the LIFT process. 

The Joint SaLT & STLS Advice Session (Speech, Language & Learning) is an opportunity to discuss pupils with moderate/severe speech and language needs with a Highly Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, Specialist Teacher for Communication & Interaction and Specialist Teacher for Cognition & Learning. Advice will focus on possible targeted interventions and supporting the child or young person's inclusion within the school curriculum. These sessions will be offered every other term.

The Communication and Interaction Drop-In - For those with Communication and Interaction difficulties, it is an opportunity for SENCOs to discuss the needs of those children and young people who are not responding to typical differentiation in lessons. They may be experiencing difficulties communicating with adults or their peers. Advice is given on appropriate interventions and helpful classroom strategies. SENCOs can also discuss whether it would be appropriate to bring a child or young person’s case for further discussion at LIFT.

Please email the STLS Business Support Assistant if you are a SENCO or class teacher and would like to book a Drop-In session.

Local Inclusion Forum Team (LIFT) Meetings

LIFT meetings are held weekly during term time. SENCOs (with the agreement of parents) can refer children and young people for discussion and access advice and strategies to the LIFT forum, chaired by the Specialist Teaching and Learning Service Lead. Participants may include an Educational Psychologist, a Specialist Teacher, a Speech and Language Therapist, an Attendance and Inclusion Advisor, Early Help and SENCOs.  

Discussion at a Drop-In session or LIFT meeting will help the school to:

ASSESS           gather ideas for further strategies

PLAN                 write or revise the child or young person’s personalised support plan                                                                     with new outcomes or targets

DO                      evaluate the best ways of carrying out the suggested strategies

REVIEW           review progress to date and decide whether it is appropriate to refer to                                                                 other agencies or for statutory assessment

Following the LIFT discussion, it may be decided that it would be helpful for a Specialist Teacher for    Communication and Interaction to visit the child or young person in their school. We currently have 2 part-time Specialist Teachers for Communication and Interaction on the team. They are:

Gemma Elliott – Specialist Teacher for C and I based at Valence School in Westerham

Julia Hadaway – Specialist Teacher for C and I based at Milestone Academy in New Ash Green

Once allocated to a child or young person, the Specialist Teacher usually contacts the school SENCO by email to arrange a visit date within 2 weeks. The Specialist Teacher will advise the school whether parent/s should also be invited to meet with the Specialist Teacher to discuss their concerns and to agree on ways forward.



The Communication and Interaction Specialist Teachers for Sevenoaks deliver a variety of training sessions and Drop-Ins for teaching staff, professionals and parents including:

Makaton Training for Parents and Professionals. A range of Makaton courses are run by Gemma Elliott who is an accredited Regional Makaton Trainer. These courses are always popular and enjoyable.

Happy, friendly and supportive delivery of the course helped us to feel comfortable...The best course I have been on for many a year.

Language for Learning for SENCOs and Teachers. A range of Language for Learning courses are run for teachers and SENCOs across Kent, some within the North Kent Area. The courses are delivered jointly by a Specialist Teacher and a Speech and Language Therapist. There are separate courses for Foundation Stage, Key Stage 1 and 2 or Key Stage 3 and 4 and for SENCOs.

Great training packed with very useful strategies.

SPELL Autism Framework for Professionals Training. SPELL training created by the National Autistic Society is a framework for understanding and responding to the needs of children and adults on the autism spectrum, developed through evidence-based practice. It focuses on five principles that have been identified as vital elements of best practice in autism and emphasises ways of how to change the environment and our approaches, to meet the specific needs of autistic children and adults. This course is ideal for anyone working with autistic children or adults who are looking to develop their understanding of best practice in supporting autistic people using the SPELL approach. A prior understanding of autism is required for this course. It can be offered to schools as bespoke training for the greatest impact within a school but there will also be courses run at Valence.


Adapting the Curriculum to include learners with SEND. This day course is aimed mainly at Key Stage 2 teachers and school leaders and is delivered by the STLS Team. A mixture of information-giving, time for sharing good practice, reflection and workshops will give teachers greater confidence in planning and adapting whole class lessons to include learners with SEND.

Feeling much more confident that small changes can have a significant impact for these children with SEND and will positively impact other children in the classroom.

Introduction to ASC Training for Parents. Training is delivered to parents in order that they might better understand their child’s condition and develop strategies to help them.

Thank you! You've probably changed my life. Honestly. Thank you!

Most training usually takes place at Valence School and can be booked online

Bespoke ASC Training in Schools. Bespoke training is delivered to the individual requirements of the school but is usually an introduction to ASC for practitioners in order that they might:

gain knowledge of the history, pioneers and facts around ASC

develop knowledge and understanding of difficulties, symptoms and strategies

further develop their own practice for supporting ASC children with their learning and school experience

Amazing presentation...really inspired by the delivery and presentation.

Bespoke INSET and twilight training sessions are also available for school staff on request. Please complete the Bespoke Training Interest Form and clearly state your requirements.

We also run courses, specialised training events and conferences from time to time with invited outside speakers. Details can be found on the Sevenoaks STLS Schools Training Calendar.