University of Edinburgh

Multi-Sensory Referencing & Objects of Reference for Children and Young People with Complex Needs and Sensory Impairments

Presented on Thursday, 7th May 2015


This course explored Multi-Sensory Referencing & Objects of Reference and practical approaches to using them. We looked at multi-sensory referencing which is part of a Total Communication environment helping to foster emergent communication skills. Objects of reference are a means of enabling children and young people to anticipate what is about to happen next or where they are going/being taken.

The participants will have gained an understanding of multi-sensory referencing which is:

  • part of a Total Communication environment helping to foster emergent communication skills;
  • a range of techniques, rather than one, combined into a whole;
  • an approach that aims to build individual awareness of location in space and time;
  • used to address POLEs (People, Objects, Locations and Events);
  • informs the learner where s/he is or where s/he is going;
  • a technique to support understanding in individuals experiencing multiple and complex needs.

The participants will also have gained understanding of the five-stage approach to the implementation of an Object of Reference Scheme. The impact of this course will be improved communication with learners with complex needs and improved learning for pupils with complex needs through the adoption of a multi-sensory total communication environment.

"All points explained clearly and in a good way related to experience, which made it easier to remember and follow."

"I found the Objects of Reference information very interesting and there are a lot of ideas I will try with my new intake class in August."

Target Audience

All those working with children/young people with complex needs, including teachers, ASN assistants, early years practitioners, Speech & Language Therapists and other allied health professionals, educational psychologists, habilitation & rehabilitation specialists and parents.


Tony Jones, Independent Teacher specialising in augmentative communication and cognitive skills. Tony has authored a number of Augmentative Communication Programs including Language, Learning and Living, Discovery, M-Power and ViP. He has also won major awards for his work including the National Training Agency Award for Innovation and the Makaton Centre of Excellence award for his work on teaching sign and symbol.


10.10 am Multi-Sensory Referencing Sensory Cueing and Environmental Engineering - Tony Jones

1.30 pm Objects Of Reference

2.30 pm OOR: the rules

3.30 pm Course Evaluation and close