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SCERTS approach

The  SCERTS Curriculum at Millstead.

Social Communication Emotional Regulation and Transactional Supports.

At Millstead we employ a range of approaches and interventions to ensure that the curriculum we offer meets the needs of individual children.  We recognize that pupils in our autism-specific classes need a wider reaching curriculum that enables them to work on the skills connected to a clearer understanding of non-verbal and verbal communication, social understanding and social behaviour, understanding and controlling their own emotions and thinking and behaving flexibly.  We therefore use  the SCERTS approach, when appropriate within these classes.  Our aim is to  use SCERTS to help provide the best possible provision for pupils who are taught in the autism-specific classrooms.  SCERTS is to be used as a framework which enables a range of interventions to be used in a holistic approach to autism (e.g. TEACCH, PECS, Intensive Interaction, Sensory Diets etc).  SCERTS will be taught within aspects of the National Curriculum as identified by subject leaders.  As children begin to move successfully through the SCERTS programme, they will be able to more fully access other curriculum areas. The SCERTS programme will be used in cooperation with Parents, S.A.L.T, Occupational Therapist and outside agencies when required.  We consider SCERTS an important part of our curriculum and it will therefore, form an important part of the I.E.Ps for pupils in the autism-specific classrooms.  Provision for these pupils will be continuously monitored as part of the school self-evaluation process.


Please find below a description of each area of the SCERTS approach.

Social Communication

The aspirational goal for all pupils is to become confident and competent communicators so that they are able to actively participate in social activities. Pupils who are able to communicate effectively are have access to increased opportunities for play and learning and are able to participate more fully in enjoyable social relationships.


Social Communication skills are needed to participate and learn:

•        Understanding intentions

•        Expressing preferences, needs and emotions

•        Sharing ideas and playing with others

•        Communicating for a variety of purposes

•        Initiating interactions

•        Imaginative play

•        Relating to peers

•        Understanding routines and expectations


Within the SCERTS programme social communication is split into 3 stages, which are:

Social Partner Stage

Children may develop the ability to communicate intentionally with gesture and/or vocalisations

Language Partner Stage

Pupils communicate for a purpose using symbols, signs and/or words

Conversational Partner Stage

Pupils use words, phrases and sentences. They begin to learn how to engage fully in conversations. Pupils begin to develop an understanding of the feelings and thoughts of others.


Children following the SCERTS programmer are all set a goal linked to the development of their Social Communication skills.  These targets come from 2 areas, which are Joint Attention and Symbol Use. 



Examples of Social Communication targets  from all 2 levels are shown below.

Joint Attention

(The ability to share attention, emotion and intention with partners)

Symbol Use

(The ability to use objects, pictures, words or signs to represent things)

Social Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • engages in interactions with others
  • initiates social routines/game/interactions
  • shifts gaze between people and objects

Social Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • imitates familiar actions or sounds
  • uses familiar objects conventionally in play
  • uses gestures and nonverbal means to communicate

Language Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • understands and uses words / symbols to express a range of emotions
  • comments on actions or events
  • shares experiences


Language Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • uses words and word combinations to express meanings
  • uses a variety of objects in constructive play
  • understands a variety of words and word combinations without contextual cues

Conversational Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • monitors the attentional focus of others
  • shares experiences in interactions 
  • increasing ability to understand and talk about past and future events


Conversational Partner Stage: examples of goals

  • learns by imitation, observation, instruction and collaboration
  • understands nonverbal cues of turn taking and topic change
  • follows rules of conversation


Emotional Regulation

This is another aspect of the SCERTS curriculum.

This is the ability to be actively engaged and be able to adapt to different situations. The child’s ability to regulate emotional arousal so they are more able to attend to, process and filter environmental and sensory information is the focus of this section. When our children are emotionally and sensory regulated they are more likely to be ready for learning.


At Millstead we recognise that in order to be ready to engage and learn a child needs to be able to:

  • Attend to the most relevant information in an activity or setting


  • Remain socially engaged with others


  • Process verbal and non-verbal information


  • Initiate interactions using appropriate communication strategies


  • Respond to others in reciprocal interaction


  • Actively participate in everyday activities


  • Understand Levels of emotional regulation strategies


Within SCERTS we look at children’s ability to deal with their emotions, feelings and sensory needs within three levels, which are:

Behavioural Level:

Child uses simple motor actions or sensory-motor strategies the child to regulate their arousal level, remain alert, and/or self-soothe these can include behaviours such as rocking or spinning an object and   having a hand massage.

Language Level:

Children use words or symbols the child uses to regulate their arousal level, such as using an individual timetable or saying “It’s ok”. At this stage children are learning about a wide range of emotions and how to deal with emotions appropriately.

Metacognitive Level (Knowing about knowing):

 Child is able to think about, plan  and talk about ways of helping themselves regulate

Within the Social, Language and Conversational Partner Stages there are targets related to developing children’s ability to self-regulate their emotions and sensory needs and well a respond to mutual regulation strategies from others.

Transactional Support

Transactional Support is the planned supports and strategies that adults use to help the child participate in social interactions and everyday activities.

The SCERTS programme focused on ensuring that the adults within school provide the correct supports for children at all times in order for children to achieve set objectives. These supports take the form of:

Interpersonal support: 

This refers to the way that communication partners (adults or peers); adjust their language, interaction styles and how they provide models of play and behaviour for individuals.

Learning support:

Ensuring that the environment and activities are structured in a way that ensures social communication and emotional regulation are encouraged.