This page explains the different types of communication support available, including professional and financial help, in nurseries and schools, at college, in the workplace and when using public services.
At Sense, we have a team of specialist teachers of multi-sensory impairment (MSI) and MSI practitioners. They have a wide range of skills and experience working with children and young people who are deafblind/multi-sensory impaired. Find out more about the support we offer
Sections on this page:
- Special educational needs and disabilities support
- Educational communication support professionals
- Education, health and care plans
- Deafblind guidance
- Local Offer
- Disabled Students’ Allowance
- In the workplace
- When using public services
- Find out more about SEND support
If you have special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), or have a child with SEND, support is available in nurseries, at school and in college, including communication support.
If you think your child may have SEND, contact the Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDco)/Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco) in your child’s school or nursery.
If your child is not in a school or nursery, contact your local council.
If you are 16 or over and planning to go into further education, contact the college before you start to make sure it can meet your needs.
The college and your local authority will discuss your needs with you.
You can find out more about SEND support below in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, including Sense’s Making it work for you: Guide for families.
The communication support professionals you come into contact will vary depending on your circumstances and where you live.
Here are some of those involved in giving professional communication support in nurseries, schools and colleges:
1. Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Coordinator (SENDCo)/Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENco)
In some schools, this role is called SENDco and in others it is SENco. Both roles are basically the same.
The SENDco/SENco is the school teacher responsible for assessing, planning and monitoring the progress of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
2. Qualified Teacher of Children and Young People with a Vision Impairment (QTVI)
A qualified teacher with an additional qualification for children with a vision impairment, working with learners aged 0–25 years.
3. Specialist Teaching Assistant (STA)
An STA offers support in learning new skills, gaining independence, getting more involved and making sure that educational materials are fully accessible.
4. Speech and Language Therapist (SALT)
A health professional trained to support children who may have difficulties with the development of language and communication skills (as well as feeding and swallowing difficulties).
5. Portage Worker
Provides home visits for pre-school children under five years who have SEND, and their families, working to develop play, communication, relationships and learning. They sometimes work closely with other agencies.
Not all areas of the UK offer portage and services vary from area to area.
To find out if you can get portage in your area, and for more information, visit the National Portage Association
6. Sense Specialist Services for Children and Young People
At Sense, we have a team of specialist teachers of multi-sensory impairment (QTMSI) and MSI practitioners with a wide range of skills and experience working with children and young people who are deafblind/multi-sensory impaired.
An education, health and care plan (EHCP) is for children and young people up to the age of 25 who need more support than they get through SEND support.
You can ask your local authority to carry out an assessment if you think your child needs an EHCP.
If you’re aged 16–25, you can ask for an assessment yourself.
Anyone else who thinks an assessment is necessary can ask for one, including doctors, health visitors, teachers and family friends.
You may also be able to get a personal budget for your child if they have an EHCP or have been told they need one.
Sense also offers support with the EHCP process, including:
- Attending educational meetings.
- Working with other professionals.
- Providing specialist advice to help you get access to the right learning environments.
To find out how we can help you, get in touch with us
If you live in England or Wales, are deafblind or have a child who is deafblind, you may be able to get more communication support (and other support) from your local authority.
Each local authority (council) must have a Local Offer for children and young people with SEND, including those who don’t have EHCPs, and their families.
The Local Offer should set out in one place all information about what education, training, health and social care support is available for children and young people with SEND.
To find your Local Offer page, search the internet using the name of your local authority plus the words “Local Offer”.
Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is support to cover study-related costs you might have because of a disability (as well as long-term illness or mental health problem).
A DSA can cover the cost of specialist equipment or British Sign Language interpreters or specialist notetakers.
Click below to find out more about DSAs in:
DSAs aren’t available for further education. Colleges and schools should provide what’s needed.
Different schools and colleges provide different amounts of support – check with your school or college about what’s available.
If you have a disability or health condition that makes it hard for you to do your job, your employer must make and pay for changes – called “reasonable adjustments” – to support you.
Your employer must do this under the Equality Act 2010 to make sure you are not put at a “substantial disadvantage” in work compared to people who do not have a disability.
Access to Work scheme
If you need further support on top of these reasonable adjustments, you can apply for an Access to Work grant.
An Access to Work grant could help pay for any assistive technology or support from a communication professional, including BSL interpreters, lipspeakers, notetakers, speech-to-text reporters and interpreters for people who are deafblind.
If you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you can find out more about Access to Work and apply on the government website. Additional information about Access to Work in Northern Ireland
Choosing a registered communication professional
When you are looking for help from a communication professional, always make sure you choose one who is registered.
To find out if a communication professional is registered, check with the organisations below:
- National Registers of Communication Professionals working with Deaf and Deafblind People (NRCPD)
- Scottish Association of Sign Language Interpreters (SASLI)
In England, Scotland and Wales, under the Equality Act 2010, service providers must take steps to make sure you get communication support, including assistive technology, and information in accessible formats from:
- Cafés, restaurants, pubs and shops.
- Energy companies.
- Government departments.
- Museums and galleries.
- NHS services.
- Television providers.
In Northern Ireland, you are similarly protected against disability discrimination by the Disability Discrimination Act.
- Sense’s Making it work for you: Guide for families
- Department of Education, Special educational needs and disabilities: a guide for parents and carers
- Independent Provider of Special Education Advice (IPSEA)
- Snap, Cymru
- Welsh Government additional learning needs (special educational needs)
- Proposed changes to identifying and assessing educational needs in Wales
Council for Disabled Children
Information, Advice and Support Services Network
Other ways of communicating
- Braille uses raised dots to touch
- Deafblind Manual spells words on to your hand
- Block alphabet spells letters on to your hand
- Moon uses raised lines, curves and dots to touch
- Tadoma uses lipreading by touch
- Hand-under-hand signing using touch
- Sign language
- Makaton, a simpler version of sign language
- Visual frame signing for people with reduced vision
- Objects of reference
- Non-formal communication without speaking, writing or signing
- Intensive interaction treating everything as communication