Students with profound and multiple learning difficulties

Top tips

  • Make activities practical where possible, using objects and tasks around the house.
  • Focus on individual learner’s communication strategies to ensure their focus and engagement in an activity.
  • Ensure that appropriate communication aides or strategies (no tech, low tech) are in place to promote choice-making and preferences of the learner.
  • Focus on embedding meaningful day-to-day activities into learning
  • Include activities to support physical wellbeing embedded into the learner’s daily schedule so that regular passive movements and position changes can ensure further engagement and learning can take place.
  • Ensure each learner has a person-centred plan, promoting and supporting meaningful activities
  • Providing families with communication resources to help their young people recognise and share emotions as young people are going to find this a time of great change and possible challenge.

Embedding sensory learning

Many young people with complex needs respond positively to sensory-based learning which explicitly enables young people to use their senses to access, engage with and appreciate the world around them.

While many families will be used to incorporating sensory experiences at home, they made need additional suggestions and resources from practitioners to help them do this. Examples of sensory learning include using the senses to enjoy the outside world, use of sensory stories and specific projects, for example gardening or cooking.

Newfriars College and Portland College have developed sensory treasure hunts and sensory stories using every-day objects at home.

Additional resources and ideas can be found on the Sensory Projects UK website.

Communication at home

Maintenance of communication skills is critical where young people are not in college. Examples of resources that can be shared with parents / carers to support communication at home can be found in the Total Communication Resources tag.

Teaching and Learning activities to support communication can also be found at the Oak National Academy website.

Additional guidance and support can also be found here:

Makaton at Home

Any Makaton resources within the exemplar are provided as examples and cannot be reproduced unless the setting has the necessary licence in place from the Makaton Charity. However, during the COVID-19 crisis, some resources have been made available and can be found here:

Makaton Healthcare Cards

National Academy Specialist Subjects

And from the following organisations:

Communication devices

Parents / carers may benefit from support and information about communication devices.

Additional information about switches can be found here.

Intensive interaction and interactive approaches

Intensive interaction is an approach for supporting young people with profound and multiple learning difficulties at the earliest levels of cognitive development. Families and carers can be supported to use this approach provided they have appropriate guidance and resources to work with. An example recording log is also provided to enable social interactions to be documented and shared with relevant stakeholders where appropriate.

Additional information and YouTube clips on intensive interaction techniques can be found here:


You can find ideas for using touch and music to create a structured half hour of sensory communication between two people on the Tacpac website.