Communication Friendly Environments 

We all use many ways to help in understanding and communicating things other than just using the spoken word.

A Communication Friendly Environment (also know as a Total Communication Environment) builds on these natural ways to support a child’s communication development.

Here are some examples of how we communicate without words:

  • Facial expression – a smile tells your child you are pleased with them
  • Tone of voice – use a soft, low voice to calm and sooth a hurt child
  • Pointing /looking – you can show where something is by pointing or looking at it
  • Gesture/ action – holding your arms out to say ‘ let’s have a hug’  or pretending to have a drink to say it’s drink time
  • Using real objects -  showing food/ drink or toys to choose from
  • Pictures/ symbols – red man/ green man shows when to cross the road, recognising the McDonalds logo!

Why do we need a communication friendly environment?

  • To help children to understand things that are said to them
  • To help you to understand what your child is telling you
  • To help to reduce frustration, anxiety or challenging behaviour caused by not understanding the spoken language they hear.
  • To support attention and listening skills

How to make your environment more communication friendly

  • Use more gestures and Makaton e.g. beckoning somebody to ask them to come to you, pointing and looking more
  • Try using sandtimers to let a child know how long the have to continue with particular activity
  • Show pictures and symbols e.g. using pictures of places to show where you’re going
  • Have pictures or symbols of different activities on a choosing tube
  • Change your tone of voice and facial expression to add meaning to what you say e.g. ask a question and have a puzzled expression on your face

Click here for a printable advice sheet on how to create a communication friendly environment in your setting.


Communication friendly environments for students of college age

It is important to create an environment which supports the communication needs of people at all ages. See our handouts for advice for supporting young people: