TaSSeLs: Tactile Signing for Sensory Learners



Practice Report

    • Joe Woodall (The Orchard School)
    • Denise Charnock (The Orchard School)


Touch is a vital channel of communication for learners at the earliest developmental levels. It has been said that it is “humankind’s earliest form of communication” (Gallace and Spence, 2010) and “our most fundamental means of contact with the outside world” (Hart, 2010).

TaSSeLs is a system of touch-speech cues to promote effective communication with people with profound and complex learning disabilities, some of whom may have a visual impairment.


The TaSSeLs system evolved from an unmet need within two Sandwell special schools. Review of the literature confirmed there was no current comprehensive system available to meet the needs of our learners. Identifying this gap led to the creation of a tactile signing system for this particular group. It was developed as a result of a multi-agency approach to teaching and learning, involving staff working within Sandwell’s Inclusion Support Service and Children’s Speech and Language Therapy Service, collaborating with education staff, other professionals, parents and carers.


The TaSSeLs resource pack includes a full-colour manual containing photographs demonstrating each tactile sign, with rationale of how the signs and approaches were developed, and including a supporting DVD and resource CD-ROM.


Published in November 2012, TaSSeLs has now been adopted in many schools across the UK.

Level of Session


Age Group

All Ages


Primary school
Secondary school
Special school

Download Session Handout