Denise Charnock, Joe Woodall

TaSSeLs Tactile Signing for Sensory Learners (2nd edition)

Training pack

For staff working with children and young people

TaSSels Tactile Signing for Sensory Learners is a training resource pack that promotes effective tactile communication with children and young people who have profound and complex learning disabilities.



For those with profound and complex learning disabilities, traditional approaches to communication and learning need to be creatively adapted to ensure they meet individual needs. Touch is a vital method of communication for those with profound learning difficulties, who can often also have visual and/or hearing impairments. The TaSSeLs system utilises touch to promote meaningful interaction by communicating what is going to happen next and preparing learners for changes. This allows them to be involved in their own routine and offers comfort, nurture and respect.

In this second edition of the TaSSels training pack, techniques have been refined, improved and added to, based upon the invaluable feedback of users. It provides all the necessary resources and information to help someone learn to use the system with children and young people aged from 0-19 years, including background information, key principles and explanations of the three different methods of delivering the signs. These methods are hand-under-hand (preferred method), hand-under-hand (adapted method) and the on-body method. The training pack includes new strategies that will increase the ease of signing, as well as increase the interaction between learner and adult.

The training pack offers practical visual aids in order to ensure the training is as easy and clear to deliver as possible. The index includes detailed descriptions of the signs, with 176 colour photographs to illustrate. The pack includes a CD-Rom which offers guidance on creating prompt cards, as well as specialist software so these can be personalised to suit the learner’s needs. A DVD demonstrates how to carry out all of the signs, using the three approaches.


‘As a teacher of children with profound and multiple learning difficulties (PMLD) the use of TaSSeLs has been invaluable in the classroom. It has given staff and parents a very meaningful, appropriate and effective way of communicating with children who were previously unsure of their surroundings or what was happening to them.’
Laura Valentine, Head of Early Years, The Orchard School

‘I have introduced TaSSeLs with a number of my clients, ranging from ages 2½ to 19 years old. One of my most successful users is Harrison. Harrison has a diagnosis of spastic quadreplegia, developmental delay, cortical visual impairment and epilepsy. He was 2½ years old when I met him and was a very unsettled little boy who startled at any unexpected sound or movement… Harrison’s startle reflex would set off frequent seizures and he was unable to focus on anything for more than a few brief seconds. TaSSeLs was the first thing I introduced and it has been used consistently by his team for the past two years. Harrison is now a cheerful little boy who loves annoying, loud, silly noises, tickles and action rhymes.’
Natalie R. Morris, Lead Speech & Language Therapist, Director, Integrated Therapy Solutions


It is strongly recommended that those who wish to use the materials in a professional capacity receive training from the TaSSeLs team. Please contact Joe and Denise at [email protected].


The TaSSeLs Tactile Signing for Sensory Learners system can be widely used by professionals in education, support and therapeutic settings. It can also be used by parents, family members and carers.


ISBN: 9781911028536
Publication: 23 October 2017
Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Rationale

Part 3: The TaSSeLs system
Section 1: Overview of the TaSSeLs system
Section 2: Hand-under-hand (preferred method)
Section 3: Hand-under-hand (adapted method)
Section 4: On-body method
Section 5: Progression of signs
Section 6: Occupational therapy and physiotherapy considerations

Part 4: The core vocabulary
Section 1: Getting started
Section 2: ‘Alert’ sign
Section 3: Core vocabulary signs (A to Z index)
Section 4: Core vocabulary signs (photographs)

Part 5: The TaSSeLs DVD and CD-rom
Section 1: The TaSSeLs DVD
Section 2: The TaSSeLs resource CD-rom

Part 6: Targets
Section 1: Monitoring and recording progress
Section 2: Using the target forms

Part 7: Consistency, consistency!
Section 1: Co-worker monitoring system
Section 2: Using the record forms

Appendix A: Alert sign and core vocabulary
Appendix B: Technical support
Appendix C: Troubleshooting
Appendix D: Frequently Asked Questions
Appendix E: Pilot project


Joe Woodall is an advisory teacher for visual impairment. Following his introduction to the world of special educational needs in the 1970s, when he worked with children and young people with challenging behaviours, his educational journey provided him with the opportunity to work with learners experiencing significant difficulties in acquiring literacy skills. In the early 1990s Joe was introduced to the world of visual impairment. His journey has continued to unfold, resulting in his specialisation in the field of profound and complex learning disabilities. This has allowed him to work very closely with children and young people, and their families, as well as with fellow professionals from other disciplines.

Denise Charnock is a senior children’s speech and language therapist and a member of the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists (RCSLT). She has worked with a range of children, young people and adults with learning disabilities since 1991, supporting them to develop functional communication and lead independent lives within the community. In 2004 Denise began working as an assistant practitioner within a speech and language therapy team and gained a speech therapy first-class honours degree in 2012. She currently works within the children’s therapies team in Sandwell and her work involves identifying and supporting the communication needs of young people including those with complex
learning needs.

Joe and Denise continue to promote the use of TaSSeLs in their daily work and respond to the increasing interest from professionals and parents who see the programme as being able to provide for the specialised communication needs of their children and young people.

Read Joe and Denise’s ten question interview explaining all about ‘Tactile Communication’.


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