English and Communication

English is a vital skill that will support pupil’s learning across our whole curriculum.  All our pupils have autism and the impact of this on their development and learning can be very complex.  All pupils, however, have the same entitlement to develop literacy skills and as a school, we will ensure that all of our pupils are given the most appropriate English progression route depending on their specific needs and abilities.  We have four ‘English progression routes’ and teacher assessment will inform the progression route that each pupil will follow.  There is flexibility in this and a pupil may transfer onto a different progression route as and when appropriate based on the progress they make.   

Our four English progression routes across our school are: 

EYFS, KS1, KS2 and KS3 Pre-readers Getting Read Write Inc ready Read Write Inc Fresh Start 
KS4 and Post 16 Pre-readers Pre entry level Entry level 1 Entry level 2 

In Phase One (EYFS and KS1), KS2 and KS3, the school uses the Read Write Inc programme as its main phonics and English scheme. In KS4 and Post 16, pupils follow an accredited programme in Functional Skills English. 

English is taught every day and all children are taught and experience a breadth of English skills which is developmentally appropriate for them.  Pupils who are learning to read are given opportunities to be taught to read with fluency, accuracy and understanding through a variety of discrete and cross-curricular learning opportunities.   

For our pupils who are ready to learn phonics, our aim is for them to become confident, enthusiastic, independent and reflective readers. Essentially, we want pupils to enjoy reading and to read for pleasure, which will in turn contribute to educational success. 

Pupils will be given the opportunity to explore different books and/or to read material which interests them, to assist them in fostering a genuine love of reading and to help them to appreciate the value of reading. During independent reading time, pupils read a book which they have chosen from the class reading area, library or a magazine of their choice.  

Pre reading Skills  

Where many pupils will respond well to phonics instruction and can understand that sounds combine to form words, we know that many autistic children and young people will have difficulty with this due to their processing difficulties and/or spoken language ability.  Many pupils will be non-verbal or minimally verbal and some will rely heavily on visual recognition of whole words, so phonics should not be the only way that reading is taught. 

We do believe however that all non-verbal or minimally verbal pupils should be exposed to phonics when they show developmental readiness, as the ability to indicate first sound can be highly supportive of their future use of alternative and augmentative communication.  For example, when non-verbal pupils are using word prediction on a communication device, the first two letters of words become important. 

We begin by teaching pupils within the pre-reader progression route to discriminate between sounds – for example, environmental, instrumental and body percussion sounds.  We then develop symbolic understanding by matching pictures to objects and objects to symbols.  When pupils demonstrate symbolic understanding they are ready to learn visual discrimination.   

Pupils are taught to: 

  • Visually discriminate between object sequences 
  • Visually discriminate between objects differing in only one detail  (e.g. different coloured cups – same cup) 
  • Visually discriminate between block patterns 
  • Discriminate between pictures/sounds e.g. pre phonics sound cards, they see a picture and make an appropriate sound 
  • Visually discriminate between letters and numbers using simple matching boards and flash cards 

We use the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) to support the above activities for our pre-reader pupils. 

The key skills that will be taught are: 

  • Vocabulary – Knowing the names of things, feelings, concepts, and ideas. Knowing the meaning of words and connecting words to objects, events, or concepts in the world 
  • Print Motivation – Being excited about and interested in books 
  • Print Awareness – Understanding that print on a page represents words that are spoken, knowing how to follow words on a page, and knowing how to hold a book  
  • Letter Knowledge – Understanding that letters are different from each other. Recognising letters and knowing that they have different names and sounds 
  • Narrative Skills – Being able to describe characters and events. Being able to retell and understand stories  
  • Phonological Awareness – Understanding that words are made up of smaller sounds. Hearing and playing with smaller sounds in words 

For pupils accessing the pre-reading progression route, we use a multi-sensory approach to create lots of opportunities for non-verbal interaction with sounds, letters, words and stories.  We encourage pupils to engage with a book or story without relying on spoken language by: 

  • Encouraging them to point to text and/or mirror running their finger under text whilst reading is happening 
  • Supporting them to turn the pages at the right time. 
  • Encouraging them to explore props and objects linked to the story so they can act out the story as it unfolds. 
  • Encouraging them to look at and match pictures and symbols to the story 
  • Using symbols to comment on aspects of the story 
  • Using movement to imitate what the characters in a story are doing 


The Read Write Inc (RWI) phonics programme is introduced in Phase One (EYFS and KS1) and continues throughout KS2 and KS3. Pupils begin by exploring ‘speed sounds’ set one. Once pupils are confident with set one, they can progress onto sets two and three. As part of their learning they practice reading and spelling green words (which are words that are decodable using the sounds they have been taught). They also learn red words (which are words that are not easily phonically decodable). Pupils will work through the RWI programme at different rates but they will generally be working on the RWI programme until they reach the age related expectations of Year 2 National Curriculum. 

The Read Write Inc (RWI) phonics programme is used as a fun, visual and lively way to teach phonics.  The aim of teaching our pupils phonics is to ensure that they can: 

  • Decode words and texts so that they learn to read and can read to learn 
  • Spell so that they can record accurately their own thoughts and ideas 
  • Understand what they read 

Our pupils who are learning to read will participate in at least five RWI lessons a week  

  • Pupils will be introduced to 1 sound per week 
  • Pupils will be grouped in homogenous groups with pupils who have similar phonetic ability 
  • Pupils will have access to appropriately levelled RWI books matched to their phonetic ability 

Reading across the curriculum  

We aim to foster an interest in words and their meanings and to gain an appreciation of books from a variety of genres. 

To promote a love of reading we: 

  • Have reading areas in each classroom which are inviting, well-organised and contain a range of quality texts that are developmentally appropriate for pupils 
  • Have daily story time sessions in every class to promote reading for pleasure. This may be an adult reading to our pupils or pupils reading to themselves 
  • Celebrate favourite stories, books and literary characters through special themed events and assemblies 
  • Recognise achievements in reading with special awards for pupils 
  • Have regular guided reading opportunities throughout the week (where appropriate within RWI lessons). 
  • Encourage parents and carers to read with their children by providing reading for pleasure materials that can be shared and enjoyed at home 
  • Ensure that pupils have access to a range of reading materials appropriate for their individual abilities 

Guided reading takes place wherever appropriate within pupils Read Write Inc lessons, either on a 1-1 basis or in a small group and is facilitated by a teacher or teaching assistant.  

Reading at Home  

All books are colour banded to ensure that pupils have access to reading materials that match their individual reading abilities.  Pupils will take home two books per week, one from the Oxford Reading Tree Scheme and one book for pleasure. The books should be changed once a week. 

Pre reader pupils and ‘Getting Read Write Inc (RWI) ready’ pupils will be given a reading for pleasure story book which they can share with their parents at home. They will also be given sound cards representing the sounds they are exploring in school for parents to share with their children at home. Pupils who are working in RWI phonics and Fresh Start groups will be given a reading book to take home which is at the level they have been assessed at on the RWI phonics/Fresh Start programme. These books (for all groups) will be sent between home and school with a reading record so that parents can comment and share feedback on their child’s reading at home. This book will be changed on a weekly basis. These pupils will also have a reading for pleasure book which they can also share with their parents. 

Story Time  

All classes have a timetabled ‘story time’ session each day, designed to inspire a love of reading.  Reading with children encourages their development of language and reading. One of the most beneficial aspects of shared reading is the dialogue between the adult and child, as they discuss the book that they are reading.  

Although non-verbal or minimally verbal pupils will not be able to have a verbal conversation about the book, they can very much engage non-verbally with the book and the reader. 


Prosper Learning Trust