A Way Forward: support for HSIE curriculum for students with special education needs

Communication levels used in A Way Forward

Developmental Stages of Learning

The framework helps teachers identify the stage their students are operating at in English and provide opportunities to move students towards the next stage. The following developmental stages have been used: pre-intentional, intentional, concrete symbolic, abstract and verbal symbolic. They are defined as:

The student’s communication may have no known purpose or meaning, as it is a reflex action. The communication partner has to assign meaning to a non-verbal student’s behaviours and interpret the intention of the behaviour. Behaviours may be unconventional.

The student makes a definite attempt to communicate or interact although the intention may not be clear to the communication partner. Behaviours can be unconventional and may escalate if communication needs are not met.

Concrete Symbolic
The student uses the environment to add meaning to their communication. The intention to communicate is clear and the student engages with a communication partner on a one to one basis. Communication is within a context set in the ‘here and now’. The student uses real objects, object symbols, photos, pictures, signs or gestures, even some words and word combinations. The teacher usually directs the student’s interest at this level.

Abstract and Verbal Symbolic
The student successfully uses verbal and/or non-verbal communication systems to engage a communication partner. They may regularly use multi-modal systems of symbols, signing, gestures and/or vocalisations. Communication can be out of context: people and events may not be present at the time (abstract). The student uses more spontaneous, conventional methods to communicate. The student usually initiates interest at this level.

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