Multisensory strategies

At the East SILC we aim to create a multisensory communication and learning environment. This means that we use light and sound, movement, visual, auditory and olfactory stimuli to offer a wide range of sensory experiences.

We use multisensory referencing 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.

It is 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.

Multisensory Referencing strategies

Sensory cueing:

Sensory cueing uses multi-sensory cues to give information about a location or an imminent event. Cues are provided by either naturally occurring events or through Environmental Engineering. Examples of sensory cues include:
  • 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 of Reference are objects that have a special meaning to the individual. They are used immediately before an event or transition to a new location. OoRs can support expression, comprehension, memory, anticipation, choice making.

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.).

Body signs
Body signs are signs which use physical touch. They are used to support our students with more complex communication needs

Body signs are based on Makaton signs, but incorporate a tactile element to give extra clues to what is happening. They help learner to understand what is happening. In some cases, learners may progress to using the signs themselves for communication.


TACPAC is an activity pack that combines touch and music to promote communication and social interaction, sensory, neurological and emotional development.

Everyday items (or hands) are used in a specific rhythm with matched music- ‘individual hears what they see and what they feel on their skin’. Their communication partner sensitively adjusts their response in response to learner cues to provide " beautiful moments of contact" 

Inclusive Literacy/Sensory stories:

By incorporating multisensory elements (e.g. objects) we can make literacy accessible to our learners with complex communication needs. 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.

Multisensory strategies

Here are some useful downloads on the Multisensory communication strategies we use and information on communicating with individuals with complex needs:

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