Sunday, November 20, 2011

Augmentative Communication

I have worked in a self-contained classroom as a paraprofessional before and one of the students in that class used a dynavox. Another student used minimal sign language, and we were in the process of trying to use PECS with 3 other students. The one thing I can most certainly agree with is that communication is a process! We were constantly working with parents, OTs, SLPs and PTs and other teachers to try to make communication available for the student across all environments. It is so challenging. I, along with other teachers, would constantly find ourselves only allowing the student to communicate only when we thought it was necessary. Obviously, we did not mean to do this in any malicious way, but it is so easily to forget that someone who can't speak doesn't always have the opportunity to communicate unless you, as a teacher, help make it accessible. It was, however, interesting to every now and then see the student become so frustrated in one of those situations where you wonder, "why are they so frustrated???" and then you realize, they can't communicate! The situation could quickly de-escalate when the student was provided an opportunity to communicate. It truly takes a lot of effort and consideration to make communication available across all environments, but so crucial.

We also had a student with sever autism who used the big mac. They way we used this device was to communicate with home as to what was happening and what the student ate at school. For example, at the end of the day I would record on the big mac, with the student present, "Today I ate hash browns for breakfast and I ate hot dogs for lunch. Today I worked on my colors and numbers. I earned puzzle time and car time by writing today's date." The student, listening to me record this, was very excited! He would go home and play it for his mother. So then the mother could engage him by saying how proud she was that he earned puzzle time. Then the mother would record back, "I had a really hard time sleeping last night. I am not feeling well. I am excited to go to school, but may not be myself today." Again, when the student came to class he would play it for me. He clearly seemed to love the way this worked, and I thought it was great. I was, however, a bit concerned: what if I was saying things that weren't really true for the student? I am assuming I know how he feels. I could easily be wrong. I had a sneaking suspicion that he felt the same way too because sometimes he would come to school and there would be nothing on the big mac: he figured out how to delete it. The mother would say she recorded something. Personally, I thought this was ok. It was his voice, and if he didn't agree with what was said he didn't have to play it. Besides that, I am not so sure how effective a big mac can be. The ability to only have one recording on there, seems limiting.

We also used the boardmaker schedules and choices. The choice board was great in our room. Students were always "working for something" and they could run to the choice board, which was filled with a bunch of different boardmaker pictures, and choose what they were working for. This is a low tech device that is wonderful. I loved that the students were able to choose. I feel like that gave them some independence.

In terms of moving forward with augmentative communication devices I think it is crucial to move towards user-friendly devices that can be carried across all environments. The solution: I believe, iTouch. I have encountered so many apps that aim to allow students with communication disabilities to increase their ability to communicate. I have read about how quickly these kids pick up on how to use these apps. There is just something so user friendly about the iTouch. Also, they are much more affordable than dynavox. I have even seen some classrooms in NYC with students with severe disabilities use iPads or touches as communication devices. I think this is a step in the right direction. Particularly iTouches because they can be carried everywhere, just like how everyone carries their phone. I know Joe has a cool iTouch watch....imagine a nonverbal student being able to wear an iTouch watch that allowed him to communicate wherever he or she went?
Check this out:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Planning with Technology

Technology can offer our students so much help in ways that teachers can't; that being said, I believe one of the biggest issues that affect whether or not technology is used effectively is how the teacher implements the use technology in the classroom. The potential for its benefits are right there, but can they be delivered to the student correctly? This is an extremely hard question to answer. As a teacher, I am not very confident in my ability to provide technological support to my students. I know that many students benefit from using technology in their learning, but often my confusion with technology only adds to their multi-tiered levels of confusion. It seems so simple when I am trying it out myself, but as Yelena said in her post, sometimes things fall apart in the classroom and the tools aren't used correctly or delivered effectively. It's such a gamble to rely too heavily on technology; yet its potential to excite and expedite learning is amazing.

Thinking of how to better assist children through the "organizing and accessing networks" really helped me better understand how we, as teachers, can better "break down" the networks of assistance students need. My color group was asked to focus on Luke:

Dyslexia and Executive Functioning Difficulty
Luke always amazes with his keen insight and contributions to class discussions even though he is reading about 5 grades below grade level. When it comes to technology, Luke is the resident guru, often sharing pictures, videos, and is up on the latest developments. Even so, with his disabilities, he is extremely sensitive and apprehensive about trying anything new related to school, and often hangs back in class until he is certain he has a good understanding of what the class is discussing. Luke often has difficulty following through with directions. Even when the homework or project does not include decoding, Luke rarely has his homework or in class work done, often loses his papers, and rarely follows through on using references or asking for help.






Enjoys class discussions

Follow directions



Contributes to class discussion

-shares his thoughts

Struggles to try new things

Can share his knowledge about technology


Keen insights


Go to person for technology-others will ask him for help

I am enjoying this method of breaking down students needs and strengths into more accessible networks.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Power of Technology

It's fascinating to consider the impact that technology has had on humans over the last two decades; these new innovations have essentially affected every aspect of our living. Now, consider being a student with a disability, and how many doors these new innovations have opened. I don't like to admit it, but I realized after watching the video that I am certainly of the binary "can do/can't do" mind set, and with all the new ways we can assist students, there is no excuse to perpetuate that mindset. These enormous strides in technological advancements have set the stage for us to think outside the box, and as educators dealing with students with disabilities, we really need to accept that challenge. Instead of thinking, "Oh, Johnny can't do that because of his disability," we need to challenge ourselves to think "how can we make this accessible to Johnny."

The most encouraging take-away I had from last weeks readings and viewings was the idea that we shouldn't only make educational parts of life accessible to students with disabilities, but all parts of life - leisure and social activities. Sometimes we focus so much on how to make the educational material accessible to all students that we forget there is a lot to be learned by living a full life. I like the idea of changing my mindset to include making all life experiences accessible- it makes my job a little more fun!