"THERE was a fire and the strawberry saved the day," recalled Lianna about a picture story she drew recently in class.
The seven-year-old is one of 16 students at the Speech and Language Unit at Aerodrome Primary, where imagination and visuals are widely used to help youngsters overcome speech and language disorders.
Having opened two years ago, the unit is already winning plaudits, with Aerodrome, in Waddon, highly commended at a national communication awards ceremony in early April.
One of two such facilities in the borough – the other is at Applegarth primary in New Addington – the unit takes children aged from four up to nine and with a range of needs.
Speech therapist Maxine Whitmore said: "Some have severe speech difficulties, some have difficulties with languages in terms of understanding and using, and some have difficulty using language in a social capacity.
"To ask for help or to pick up on humour, for example; sometimes they can be quite literal."
What the children share, however, is the frustrating consequences of not being able to communicate properly. Those include, added Ms Whitmore, problems with "things like friendship, and really accessing the curriculum".
Children come here for their regular schooling alongside help with their communication needs. The aim is for them eventually to go back into mainstream schools.
Teachers use tools including visual aids, repetition and outdoor trips to help their students. In one example, teachers assign a different shape to each grammatical component of a sentence.
"Very often they forget key parts of sentences [such as the object or the verb]," Ms Whitmore explained. "But if you can say to them, 'You have forgotten, for example, the diamond', then it works."
Aerodrome Primary was highly commended at early April's annual Shine a Light Awards, run by Pearson Assessment with The Communication Trust.
Judges were impressed with the school's "tailored support packages for pupils encompassing social, education and emotional wellbeing" and its "multi-sensory approach to learning". For example, explained the school's assistant head Vicky Prigg, a project in which students made a space rocket to fly to the moon.