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Strategies to Support Students

Below are lists of strategies for providing the student with support in the area of communication. However the appropriateness of these supports will depend on the student. Knowledge of the individual student’s communication needs is vital. It is recommended that the teacher familiarise themselves with any speech pathology reports the student may have on file, and seek the advice of any speech pathologist the student is consulting. If the student is not currently seeing a speech pathologist and the teacher is concerned about communication, a referral is strongly recommended.


Receptive Communication

Never insist on eye contact.

  • When speaking: say the student’s name at the start of the sentence, pause and wait until you have the student's attention, then speak.
  • Allow the student time for thinking and processing after you ask a question or give an instruction. Do not expect an immediate response.
  • Support verbal communication with visual prompts (such as calendars, flow-charts, graphs, photos, symbols, pictures etc.).
  • Give instructions one at a time.
  • When giving instructions, state clearly what you would like the student to do, rather than telling them what not to do. For example, instead of saying “no running”, the teacher could say “(student name), please walk”.
  • Use fewer words - keep communication simple and specific.
  • Try to keep the volume of your voice within “normal” range. When you have naturally altered the tone or volume of your voice, it is helpful to explain what just happened for the student, to avoid confusion. For example “That’s wonderful work! My voice just got a little bit louder because I’m feeling excited and happy”.
  • Try clearly naming the emotions that you re communicating to the student. For example, rather than saying “oh that’s no good”, a teacher might say “I’m sorry to hear that your sister is sick. I am feeling worried about her and worried about you”.
  • Be literal - do not use figures of speech such as “pull your socks up”.

Expressive Communication

  • Never insist on eye contact.
  • Provide the student with subject specific word-banks (with or without accompanying pictures) which can act as a prompt/support when writing about or discussing a topic.
  • Focus first on the message a student is conveying and respond to their message, rather than correcting errors in their speech/writing – the student may feel discouraged from communicating (you can always come back to the errors you notice and work on them later).
  • Teaching the student some non-verbal ways to request help during activities (such as having a picture of a traffic light on the desk, with a clothes-peg that can be moved from green, amber or red).
  • Clearly teach the student skills for common communication tasks such as:

- asking the teacher for help or a break,

- how to communicate that they have finished a task and are wondering what to do,

-  asking to borrow equipment (such a pencil sharpener)

- apologising for bumping into another student

- asking other people to move out of the way.

  • Seizing “teachable moments” when communication has not gone well and explaining strategies the student could have used. Try role-modelling the communication that the student could have used, and then role playing by “rewinding” and giving the student a chance to try again.
  • Discuss with a speech pathologist whether the use of Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) would be appropriate.
  • Allow the student extra time to gather their thoughts before speaking.
  • Allow the student to complete work tasks using their preferred communication method (the student may find it easier to communicate by typing, or speaking).