An Autism Communication Passport is a key component to helping your child transition to school for the first time. An Autism Communication Passport can also be used with a student on their return to school after an extended period of non-attendance, such as the summer holidays. If a new teacher takes over the class mid-way through the year, there will usually be a hand-over between the outgoing and incoming teacher, where essential information is given about their students. As a parent, you may wish to create an up to date Communication Passport for the incoming teacher.
You will need to update your child’s Communication Passport each year, as just like ourselves, their needs, wants and preferences will change over time.
Let’s get started.
What is a Communication Passport?
The Communication Passport was first introduced by Sarah Millar in 1991. She co-authors “Personal Communication Passports: Guidelines for Good Practice”, available from (www.communicationpassports.org.uk)
An Autism Communication Passport is a resource that hosts a cohort of key information pertaining to a child/adolescent or adult who has difficulties communicating essential and complex information about themselves. The purpose of the Passport is to help provide this key information about the child/adolescent or adult to their communicative partner.
It is usually created by family members, the child/adolescent or adult themselves, service providers, therapists and/or professionals working with the person to whom the Passport relates.
It is especially important to have a Passport created in advance of times of transition. When the child is moving school, starting school, returning to school or changing class or if a new teacher is taking over the class.
There are many reasons for creating a Communication Passport but for the purposes of this post we are focusing on the transition to school.
The Passport should:
- present the person positively as an individual, not as a set of ‘problems’ or disabilities.
- provide a place for the person’s own views and preferences to be recorded and drawn to the attention of others
- reflect a ‘flavour’ of the person’s unique character
- describe the person’s most effective means of communication and how others can best communicate with and support the person
- draw together information from past and present, and from different contexts, to help staff and conversation partners understand the person, and have successful interactions.
Every child/adolescent and adult communicate in an individual manner. Their Passport if created correctly will help their communicative partner to learn expeditiously, pertinent information about them that will help to support and scaffold their communicative relationship.
The Passport will help to reduce anxieties and stresses the child/adolescent or adult may be feeling, as their communicative partner will understand as much about them as possible and will be able to communicate effectively with them from the get go.
By reading an Autism Communication Passport, the reader will be introduced to and learn key information about the child/adolescent/adult:
- their personal information
- their communication ability/level of communication
- how they communicate
- how best way you can support their communication abilities
- important people in their life
- their routine
- when your help is needed
- their personality
- their likes / dislikes
- medical information (optional)
- life skill information (optional)
- diet/allergy information (optional)
- when feeling anxious/upset/afraid – how to support them
- positive information about themselves- their achievements/talents
How they communicate.
“How they communicate” – this is a vitally important aspect of the Communication Passport. If you are writing a Passport on behalf of another person, it is most likely (but not always) because they are vulnerable and have difficulty communicating personal and complex information about themselves.
In this section you will go into detail about the function of their communications. If you student or child is non-verbal or has limited communication abilities, they may communicate their needs in a manner that is not typically discernible to those outside his/her immediate close circle.
Therefore you will go into detail providing information about what certain noises may mean, what a particular gesture may mean. For example, my son Conor (10) struggles to communicate verbally. He will answer “k” a lot, sometimes it means “okay” other times it may mean something completely different.
It depends on the circumstances and this is the key information you need to provide for the proposed communicative partner.
You need to provide as much detailed information as possible so the proposed communicative partner will be prepared at the outset how to communicate with the child/student/service user.
You need to draw attention to the functions of their behaviours.
Functions of Communication
What is the child/student/service user trying to communicate?
If their sounds or gestures have particular meanings, this information needs to be in the Communication Passport. If they use sign language, but have adapted the signs to a manner in which they is appropriate for them, this information needs to be articulated in the Communication Passport, so the proposed communicative partner understands that the sign/gesture has meaning even though it may not typically represent what is usually known as a particular sign.
In this regard, where possible you can include photos (if possible) of what each of the signs/gestures mean. If the child/student/service user is capable of using sign/Lámh effectively, include images where appropriate of the signs they know or a list of known signs so the teacher/sna/support worker can be prepared in advance of working with the child/student/service user.
Please do / Please Do Not
Where possible include a Please Do/Please Do Not page, which will give a point by point analysis of the way the child/student/service user prefers to be communicated with. How they wish to be treated and so on.
There are a great many types of Communication Passports you can create. You can create a Medical Communication Passport where relevant, one for the Dentist and so on.
For the purposes of this post, the focus is on a Communication Passport for School. You can read this post I wrote in 2015, which lists in detail topics to include.
I have created a School Communication Passport Resource which is now available in my online store, which you can find here.
There are 38 pages in this resource. It contains a colour and black/white Communication Passport together with 5 colour Passport cover pages and 5 black and white cover pages. You can choose which type you prefer.
Communication Passport Topics
The topics covered in the Communication Passport include:
•Who am I? (Name – Age – Birthday – Address)
•Family & Important People in my life
•How do I communicate?. What do I mean when I mean when I say/make certain sounds?
•What do I really like/love?
•What do I not really like love?
•Important information about my diet/allergies I may have?
•Important medical information about me.
•Dangerous habits I have, please watch out for these.
•My self help skills.
•If I am anxious/upset/afraid?
•There are so many great things about me and so many things I can do.
•I will need your help with:
•Important contact details.
•Extra information about me.
Use each page title as a jumping off point and provide as much information as possible.
On the return/start of school you will give this document to your child/student’s new teacher/returning teacher. It will help them to support and scaffold your child’s start/return to school.
If you would like more information on creating and using a Communication Passport, send me a DM over on my Instagram.
Until next time,