Mid Year Classroom Update

Our school year is more than half over!  In September I moved back into the classroom and dedicated myself to providing receptive input on a daily basis to my students.

A little background: I taught preschool special education for many years during my career.  In that environment routine and repetition are very important. The students feel more at ease when they know what’s coming up next. They can actually focus on the learning and interactions when they’re not wondering “what are we doing?”.

I brought routine and repetition to my new classroom because students of every age need to know what’s happening each day. Routines allow them to focus on the learning instead of on “what’s next?”.  So I set up my classroom with a routine and a structure that would allow for learning, movement, and the development of communication throughout the day.

Remember the five core boards I posted around the classroom? They’ve expanded to other areas of the school!  There are two more in our multipurpose room (our “gym”) and one in the sensory room. Upon their first sighting of the core board in the multipurpose room, one student went over and immediately touched “good!”. Yes, indeed! It is good to have words everywhere!

Since December two of our students have begun using Proloquo2Go on iPads. We are seeing daily growth in their communication output. Recently, while talking with my students about the day and date, I asked if anyone could tell me the date.  One student (independently) navigated from the home page of Proloquo2Go to “time”, “days of the week,” and touched Sunday. Though it wasn’t Sunday, we were ecstatic that he navigated on his own in order to respond to the question!

Here’s hoping that your students are making progress too! Every day brings a new adventure in learning!

New School Year, New TEACHING Position!

After almost six years away I'm back in the classroom!  Starting a new job is a daunting task. I'm figuring out how to best use the classroom space and working to develop an effective classroom routine. Of course, there's all of the administrative “stuff" too.  So much to do in a short period of time. Every day is a wonderful, exhausting whirlwind. 

I made the decision to place communication at the top of the priority list in my new classroom. Most of my students are considered non-verbal.  They range in age from 13-23 and have had little access to aided language input on a consistent basis during their educational experience. As a certified PODD trainer, I knew that I wanted to provide access to robust vocabulary via aided language input. My teaching assistant and I are providing abundant receptive input throughout the day by carrying our group PODD books everywhere we go. In addition, we have five core vocabulary posters around the room along with multiple activity displays in relevant areas (food pages at the table, reading pages at the guided reading area, etc). We refer to them as often as we possibly can given the very active nature of the students.

No matter the age or the severity of the disability, every student has the right to communication supports. I am determined that as the year progresses, my students will be able to harness the power of communication. We are providing them with the tools and the models of how to use a robust communication system to share their thoughts and ideas.  Stay tuned!

Great Article on Aided Modeling Interventions for Children with ASD

This is a great article I recently read about aided language stimulation for children with ASD.  The article describes how language development in children follows a fairly predictable path. Babies make movements and sounds and adults around them respond to those sounds and movements as though the baby is "talking" to them. Adults provide language to babies every day for hours at a time, modeling for the children how their language works. Often this modeling of language occurs without conscious effort on the part of the adults. Over time, years in fact, spoken language is developed by the baby and refined to an adult form by about 9 years of age. 

In contrast, children who may be diagnosed with autism around 2 years of age are still provided spoken language models, but for whatever reason many children with autism do not speak. They typically possess strong visual skills and one strategy that may support the language development children with autism is known as aided language modeling. Adults who use pictures, graphic symbols, line drawings, etc., along with spoken words have proven beneficial to children with autism. 

Kathryn Drager (Aided Modeling Interventions for Children With Autism Spectrum Disorders Who Require AAC, 2009) suggests that this type of language modeling supports language development in children with ASD because it is used in natural contexts and uses spoken language paired with visual symbols as input and to expand vocabulary. 

Remember - PODD is a tool that allows for aided language stimulation!

Here is the link to the aricle if you would like to purchase a copy to read:  sig12perspectives.pubs.asha.org