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Early Understanding

It’s important to offer a variety of experiences/ objects/ activities and environments appropriate to a child’s
interests, age and prior achievements, to support their early understanding. These opportunities encourage encounter, awareness and attention and work towards developing responses, interaction, participation and intentional exploration. Children’s exposure to a range of strategies and activities used both at school and home can support the development of these skills.


This includes:

  • The consistent use of  objects of reference (OOR) and pictures of reference (POR) if appropriate for your child.
  • Attention activities, including, drama games, story massage, dance massage, sensory stories etc.
  • Developing a contextual understanding through repetition of activities and events.
  • Developing awareness of the function of objects.


Contextual Understanding

Contextual understanding is when an individual understands contextual clues across the day, this could be familiar gestures, words, Makaton and sounds. For example, your child may respond to the toilet object of reference by moving or looking towards the toilet/ changing mat, lead you to the garden on seeing the picture of
reference, turning towards a mobile phone when it rings, reaching out to an adult when the adult holds out their hand to them etc.


Contextual understanding can also be consistent responses to the main events in the child’s day, for example, they may lead you into the kitchen for breakfast on waking up, look towards their coat before going out of the house, smile in anticipation of bath time etc. Some of our pupils may also begin to respond to repeated Makaton signs, single words or familiar phrases during the day, for example, the may wave on hearing a family member say, “Hello”, turn towards someone/smiling on hearing their name being called, picking up a cup on hearing the word or turning towards the sink on hearing “Wash your hands”.


You can support your child by;

  • Consistently using their objects or pictures of reference, communication systems across the day.
  •  Using appropriate single word language where appropriate, labelling items/ activities/ people/ places that your child comes into contact with.
  • Creating a daily routine that your child can follow, learning to anticipate activities and show responses.
  • Pausing for your child to respond to the object/ picture of reference or gesture, word, sound, 

allowing you see if your child understands.