top of page

Pupils with Complex Needs

High Quality Accessible Phonics

A woman hugging a disable child

Some pupils have complex needs with challenges in a number of areas and multiple impact on learning and attainment.


All pupils benefit from access to a systematic synthetic linguistic phonics programme to learn to read and spell and it is possible to adjust a programme to enable access for pupils with complex needs.

For pupils who use AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) strategies to communicate, developing good literacy skills is doubly important. Being able to use the written word as the main way to access and use a voice output device is much quicker than a symbol based system. Not only does this speed up communication it expands the pupil's communication possibilities by giving them the opportunity to say whatever they wish rather than just what is programmed into their device.

For teachers who work with pupils with complex needs, a companion booklet to books 1-6 is available as a free eResource from the Routledge website. This describes adaptations to the activities and includes resources and manipulatives to support nonverbal pupils, pupils with physical disabilities and pupils with autism. 

Follow the link below to the Phonics for SEN Youtube channel to see demonstration teaching sessions with complex pupils.


Adaptations include use of alternative communication strategies such as use of single message recording devices, visual place markers, symbol cards and eye-gaze. For pupils with fine motor difficulties a range of alternative strategies are suggested. 

Pupils with visual impairment are likely to be able to access the core activities in the books with appropriate adjustments to accommodate their needs as described in their visual profile, e.g. enlarging materials, using magnifiers, using sloping boards etc.

Pupils with hearing impairment are likely to be able to access the core activities in the books with appropriate adjustments to accommodate their needs, the teacher being aware of and responsive to their auditory strengths and weaknesses, e.g. awareness that the pupil may be unable to hear some sounds of a particular frequency, appropriate use of radio aids, sound field etc.

What does phonics teaching look like for pupils with complex needs?

This video shows how the Phonics for Pupils with SEN programme can be delivered to a pupil with complex needs, in this case a pupil who is nonverbal and has limits to fine motor skills and is unable to write.

This and other videos on the Phonics for SEN Youtube Channel show some of the strategies used to teach blending, segmenting and reading a book. 

bottom of page