Tuesday, November 18, 2008

AAC Activities for Early Special Needs Learners, Part Two

"Let's go over to the Reading Corner," I said. I was taking a Big Mack to one of our Early Learning Centers to play with some special needs kids and show staff ideas with the device. We sat down with "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" and I held down the record button and sang the first page.
The students took turns pressing the switch and listening to the first line of the song as worded on the page. We continued through the book and finished the book re-recording each page as we went. (By the way, a Step-by Step, also by Ablenet can record sequences and allow for responses as well - great for conversations, jokes, books, songs, etc.)
After I had modeled requesting with markers (See yesterday's post) and had gone through a book with a song, now I was ready to engage these eager learners in more literacy by having them "read" a book to me using the device. We chose a book and I did the first two pages like we had done the song. Now, on the third page I asked one of them to record what the words said. I held down the button and switch plate while the girl shared her interpretation of the words on the page.
"Shooga, ooga, up, up, up!" she said.
We listened back. She was ready for the next page. Her words were similar and always ended with "Up, up, up!" We would listen back.
The next page showed a mother holding her child. "That is me mama," the little girl shared. "Let's record that." I encouraged. "That is me mama" she said again. She pressed the switch and heard it play back.
One of the staff who was watching got excited. The student had not used that many words before in a situation like this. She was also getting the contextual information from the illustration on the page and combining language and real life situations in an interaction with the book. Wow.
The staff decided to start using the Big Mack as a fun way to share around circle time. They have each student share their name when they look at classroom jobs in the morning and share a word for the day, etc. One boy in particular, the one I really brought the device for, is non-verbal and he wasn't there the day I brought in the device. They would like him to be able to use the device to say his name when it comes around to his turn.
As I shared yesterday, by incorporating a device like this to support communication, and using it throughout the day and in many situations, students get comfortable and familiar with the device and the principles for using it. It sets them up for self-accommodation at an early age. What a gift to give all our special needs children.

All the best to you,
Lon

Lon Thornburg is an assistive technology specialist and professional development trainer who lives in Oregon and serves 12 districts in 7 counties. He hosts the No Limits 2 Learning Blog and The No Limits 2 Learning Live Talk Show on Blog Talk Radio. He is sharing as a contributing writer on LD LIVE!

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