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Holy Family School, Cootehill, Co. Cavan

Speech and Language

Speech & language Therapy programmes  used in Holy Family School are listed below:

  •   Hanen 'It Takes Two To Talk' Programme.    (
  •  Intensive Interaction                      (                                              
  • The Listening Programme.               (
  • The Derbyshire Language Scheme .(
  •  Oral-sensory/Oral –Motor Skills development.    (
  •  Phonological Therapy.
  •  Curricular Concept Vocabulary Development.

         (Including concepts relating to Time, Direction,Maths and Association.)

  •  Verbal reasoning and problem solving exercises.
  •  Pragmatic and Social Skills training.

Parent/staff Training.

The SLT is responsible for liaising with and advising staff and parents regarding the following:

  • ·       Various aspects, and implementation of pupils communication programmes.
  • ·       Adapting environments to make them conducive to better communication.
  • ·       Developmental levels of communication.
  • ·       Advice regarding feeding and establishing good feeding patterns and practises.
  • ·        liaising with and advising staff in local national schools.( in cases of dual enrolment)
  • ·       Onward referral to other agencies as appropriate.(eg CRC for AAC assessment, ENT          referral)
  • ·     Advice regarding AAC usage( augmentative/alternative communication)



Augmentative & Alternative Communication In The Holy Family School.


The staff in HFS are committed to encouraging a multimodal or a ‘whole communication’approach to communication, and will always respond to and support all forms of communication used by the pupils, including non-verbal and augmentative/alternative modes of communication used by pupils.    (eg.pointing, facial expression, body language and gesture are all important informal ways we communicate, along with spoken language use).

In addition, some formal AAC systems are an important mode of communication for many pupils at the school:.


 Signing Systems

A large number of pupils at the school have Down’s Syndrome. As has been well documented, these children, and indeed most children with moderate- severe learning disability or Autism,are ‘visual learners’( ie they learn better with their eyes than with their ears) Makaton and Lamh signing systems have been specifically developed for people with a learning disability to use, as they are simple and do not require the use of finger spelling, as many other signing systems do. Makaton has been used in the school for the past 20 years but is being phased out in favour of the Irish equivalent – Lamh. with younger pupils.

   Commonly used signs may be taught to children as an  alternative to speech, or more often, as augmentative communication ( ie used as a support to speech which is limited in intelligiblity)

When used by carers, along with speech, signs enhance the pupils understanding of spoken language.




Partner Assisted Auditory/Visual Scanning Programmes

These systems of communication rely on good memory, good functional comprehension of language and the pupil being able to use  consistent ‘yes’ and ‘no’ responses.

The communication partner verbally lists a number of message options, and the pupil indicates ‘yes’ when he hears the one he wants

It is low tech,  quick,effective, and needs no materials, pictures, charts etc, when used correctly with appropriate students.



Voice Output Communication Aids (VOCAs)

For some pupils, who have physical limitations, as well as a learning disability, the goal of using spoken language to communicate may not be a realistic one. Sign usage or picture exchange may also be inappropriate. These pupils may need access to computerized communication aids.

Such aids vary widely in complexity, from a single switch operated voice output device (such a ‘Big Mack’or ‘Step By Step’), to more complex communication aids having 4 or more messages and 5 or more ‘levels’ or sets of messages; such as a ‘Go Talk4’ or ‘Go Talk 20’ for up to 100 messages.

Increasing , the use of AAC apps on ipad are replacing these communication aids.Apps can be customized to the child’s needs and ability, from simple choicemaking apps to complex communication apps which store hundreds of prerecorded words/messages.

Such communication aids are a good introduction to the power of communication for a child, and allow for social communication,(eg  greetings, news etc) choicemaking and requesting.

Pictures/messages can be accessed by direct touch or by using a switch to suit the child’s motor ability,or in scanning mode.In addition, recent advances in eye gaze technology mean that severely physically challenged pupils can access  AAC communication packages through eye gaze.

A variety of such aids are used by some children in the school , SCU  and classes for children with Autism. The skills required for their usage ( ie visual scanning and fixing, cause-effect relationships, physical control of the switch) are practised using computer based activities  with appropriate switches in school.




Picture Exchange Communication ( PECs)

This system of communication is routinely used in the classes for children with Autism, but is also successful with many children in the school and SCU  in developing  the ability initiate an interaction with another and to request and comment in daily situations.It involves the child exchanging a picture or a ‘sentence strip’( a combination of pictures) with a communicative partner. This is again teaching communication skills in a ‘visual’  way, whereby pupils use pictures instead of words to initiate an interaction.

PEC’s promotes a positive communication experience for the child, is easy to use, and takes the pressure off speech. Some pupils using PECs go on to develop functional speech and language skills.Others continue to rely on PECs to meet their communication needs. Either way, it is effective in teaching basic communication skills to an emerging communicator.


‘’The greatest gift we can give a child is help in learning to communicate and connect with his world’’

Ayala Manolson 1992