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Oxfordshire Inclusive Communication

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What is Total Communication?

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Total communication means communicating with individuals using the most appropriate means for them.

It’s not just about talking…

  • It’s about signing,
  • Pointing to photos, symbols and pictures.
  • It’s about objects…
  • Using gesture, body movement and eye contact…
  • It’s about creating meaningful interactions using intensive interaction
  • And using other forms of high-tech communication, such as iPads and specialist communication devices.

We might chose to use different means of total communication depending on the situation we are communicating about. For example, if we are introducing a new activity we may chose to use an object to represent this, however when communicating about a daily routine, we might use a visual timetable.

We all use total communication techniques everyday without even thinking. We might see them as an ‘added extra’ when we communicate with each other; for example, we often – sign for a drink in a noisy pub, use a drawing to give directions to where we live, or recognise someone from the smell of their perfume.

For some people with communication difficulties, these ‘added extras’ are a vital part of their understanding and expression. Without these ways of communicating, everyday activities may not make much sense.

This is why total communication is so important. Making small changes to the way we communicate, can make a big impact on the way others understand us.


Last updated: 14 August, 2017