Communication support

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

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.

Find your local council, using your postcode.

Find out more more about support for children under 5, and children aged 5–15, on the government website.

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.

Educational communication support professionals

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.

Find out more about the support we offer

Education, health and care plans

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.

Find out more about EHCPs and personal budgets on the government website.

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

Deafblind guidance

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.

Find out more about Sense’s deafblind guidance and you can download a Department of Health and Social Care guide from the government webiste.

Local Offer

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.

Find your local council, using your postcode.

To find your Local Offer page, search the internet using the name of your local authority plus the words “Local Offer”.

Download the Council for Disabled Children’s Local Offer Guide

Disabled Students’ Allowance

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:

Help with your DSA needs assessment from AbilityNet

Further education

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.

In the workplace

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:

When using public services

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:

  • Banks.
  • Cinemas.
  • Cafés, restaurants, pubs and shops.
  • Courts.
  • Energy companies.
  • Government departments.
  • Museums and galleries.
  • NHS services.
  • Television providers.

The Disability Justice Project has more information

In Northern Ireland, you are similarly protected against disability discrimination by the Disability Discrimination Act.

Find out more about SEND support

England

Northern Ireland

Scotland

Wales

Council for Disabled Children

Networks, programmes and special interest groups that focus on specific aspects of the SEND sector

Information, Advice and Support Services Network

Find your nearest service in England

Other ways of communicating

Using speech

Using touch

Using signs

Also

More information