John Jamieson School

John Jamieson is an open and welcoming, generic, all age Special School and National Teaching School which caters for pupils with a learning difficulty

Multisensory strategies

At the East SILC we aim to create a multisensory communication and learning environment. This means we:

  • offer a number of sensory experiences/activities;
  • use light and sound, movement, visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli which can be controlled for specific learning;
  • purposefully craft, resource and use our staff
  • provide individual sensory experiences - all senses being stimulated;
  • make use of all our environments – sensory room, class, in the park, supermarket, etc.


We use multisensory referencing which compromises a range of techniques that are detailed below. The aims of multisensory referencing are to support early emergent communication skills and awareness. They give the learner understanding of location in space and time, supporting them to anticipate what will happen next. They can be used to show People, Objects, Locations, Events (P.O.L.E’s). We can use any of the techniques in combination to support a learner’s individual needs. As with the other communication strategies we use it is highly important that multisensory referencing is used consistently for effective use. Information on any strategies used should be detailed in a Communication Passport so that all interaction partners can support the individual consistently (please see ‘Communication Passport’ handout below).


Multisensory Referencing strategies


Sensory cueing:


  • multi-sensory cues to a location or an imminent event.
  • provided by either naturally occurring events or through Environmental Engineering.
  • on route to or an arrival at the location or event.
  • come from a variety of sources at once
  • Examples of sensory cues: touch- trolley/basket at supermarket; smell- spray bottle with fragrance in; visual- different colour and/or textures for areas, doorways etc., use photographs to label environment; hearing- specific song/instrument/bell for parts of the day; combination- bead curtain; putting a coat on to go outside.


Objects of Reference (OOR):


  • Objects that have special meaning to the individual are used immediately before to represent P.O.L.E’s
  • Support expression, comprehension, memory, anticipation, choice making
  • For individuals for whom other augmentative systems are (presently) insufficient (or to augment existing augmentative systems), but may promote the development of other symbol systems.
  • Should be used across all environments


At the East SILC we use a combination of shared and individualised Objects of Reference. Shared OORs are where objects used are common to all users (e.g. a green plastic cup for drink). Individualised OOR allow for items to be used they are specific to the person and may already have meaning to them (e.g. specific cup, drinks bottle etc.).


This is the agreed East SILC OOR core vocabulary:





Objects of reference


Green plastic cup


Light blue plastic spoon


Fruit/veg net

Gastrostomy feed

Gastro tube (or body sign)


Blue micro fibre (dusting) cloth


Wooden lolly stick large


White/cream flannel/towel


Black (plain) dog collar with buckle

Sensory room

Tealight- battery operated

Soft Play

Small yellow plastic ball pool ball


Keys on keyring


Laminated photograph



Sensory circuit/rebound

Burgundy net/tutu fabric (multiple layers)


Individual/personal (e.g. Riding hat)






















Body signs:


  • Physical touch cue signs for students with more complex communication needs
  • Based on Makaton signs, but incorporate tactile element to give extra clues
  • Gives understanding of what is happening
  • May progress to signing themselves




  • Activity pack that combines touch and music to promote communication and social interaction, sensory, neurological and emotional development.
  • Everyday items (or hands) used in a specific rhythm with matched music- ‘individual hears what they see and what they feel on their skin’
  • Communication partner sensitively adjusts their response in response to learner cues to provide " beautiful moments of contact"


Inclusive Literacy/Sensory stories:

Literacy can be inaccessible to learners with complex communication needs. By incorporating multisensory elements (e.g. objects) we can make literacy accessible to all of our learners. We often use sensory stories and multimedia presentations to support learners to communicate, share their own stories, participate in literature, and to enjoy and enrich life. We can use a wide range of techniques to promote access to literacy including talking photo albums, cause and effect toys/activities, drama and role play and messy play/activities.


Please also see the handouts below for more information and the Intensive Interaction section of the website for further information on how we support our learners with complex communication needs. Please contact the Speech and Language therapy team if you have any questions. 


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