1997 Conference Proceedings

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Pati King-DeBaun,M.S. CCC-SLP
Creative Communicating
P.O. Box 3358
Park City, UT 84060
Internet: htpp://www.creative-comm.com

As discussed by Musselwhite (1986) many children with severe disabilities do not know how to play and need to be shown how to. Children with severe disabilities and communication impairments are often passive observers in play activities. Several factors contribute to this; lack of accessible play materials, inability to move and explore the play environment, inexperience in play (both independent and cooperative), his/her lack of world knowledge, and lack of communication. Several simple adaptations can be made to materials, toys, and activities so the child with disabilities can take a more active role in play. Furthermore, computer play is often not considered for the young child ages 0-3 however, a variety of adaptations, software programs and strategies can be used to motivate and teach important beginning cognitive and communication skills.

A variety of resources suggest fun and motivating ways to encourage communication and cognitive development through play using assistive technology, Musselwhite,1986, Burkhart, 1987, o, Crain & Elder,1987a,1987b,1992) Adaptive tools including computer technology are available for parents, teachers and therapists to enhance both cognitive and communication skills through play. The presentation will walk the interventionist through a progression of activities to facilitate early interactions. Please note that many children may or may not directly progress through these skills so this should not be used as a recipe book but rather as a guide.

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Attention to objects/Reaching towards objects-Making it Fun!

First the young infant needs to direct his/her attention to others and objects. The facilitator can use positioning aides such as a communication vest (Goossens' & Crain, 1992) to place objects and free hands to support the child. A flashlight can cue the child toward the object. The facilitator can operate toys or the computer when the child gazes toward the objects. Eventually, the child will begin to reach toward objects and the facilitator can activate the toys. Toys are selected that require a light touch. A magnetic reed switch can be used to operate battery operated toys. The child only has to reach towards the object and the toy will be activated.

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Cause and Effect

Single Action-Reward

Gradually a hand activated single switch or touch window can be utilized. As suggested by Goosesens' and Crain (1992) the switch can be positioned in close proximity to or on the toy. Later the switch can be placed further and further from the end reward. On the computer a Touch Window can be used initially ( if possible) and the later a single switch. Programs are selected that require one hit to gain a reward. Several motor related toys can also be selected the child pulls the blanket from the doll and the doll says, 'peek a boo' or King-DeBaun (1995, in progress) notebook switches (Burkhart,1980) are inserted where repetitive sounds occur in books and attached to a voice output device-when the child presses the repetitive sound is activated.

Multiple or Sustained Actions-reward

Items can be introduced that require multiple presses or a sustained press to complete an action. For example, the child hold down his switch to activate of a battery operated toy that brings him/her his cookie for snack.( Burkhart, 1987,Goossens' & Crain 1992).The child presses the switch multiple times to continue reading a computerized book or song. Press the switch to complete actions on the computer screen, advance the slide on a slide projector so the facilitator will continue reading and so on.

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Early Choice Making

Visually Scanning Choices

For some children it may be necessary to teach them how to visually scan choices in their environment. Goossens' & Crain (1992) suggest using two battery operated toys to teach children to follow an index finger point to the left and right. The facilitator can enhance this by using a flashlight. Whenever the child follows the adults cross-body point to the object, the child is rewarded with something interesting. (i.e. doll dancing and singing or battery operated toy is activated by the facilitator) These same steps can be used for reaching. The toys are placed in close proximity to the child, the child is directed to visually scan his/her choices with a flashlight cue. When the child reaches toward the object it is activated by the adult.

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Beginning Choice Making

Meaningful and concrete choices using objects can be introduced into the child's home routine and play activities. (e.g. clothing, foods, toys to play with, etc.) Gradually photos can be paired with the objects an finally photos only can be used. On the computer, two highly rewarding activities can be selected by the child using scanning or the touch window and programs such as ClickIt ( IntelliTools) and Kid Pix (Broderbund),Hyperstudio(Roger Wagner),or Speaking Dynamically (Mayer-Johnson), as will be discussed in this presentation. Objects can be attached to the screen with Velcro(TM) and/or suction cups and gradually real photos can be introduced. A variety of light tech communication aides can also be used to introduce simple choice making. ( e.g. Sounds by Me Strips (Creative Communicating) can be adapted for two selections, two Talking photo Frames can be used (Wallmart(limited supply),Radio Shack) or Time Frame (Sharper Image) can be utilized.

As Piaget discovered, 'play is child's work'. Since everyone loves to play, play can be a highly successful medium for both the child and adult!

Burkhart, L. (1980). Homemade battery powered toys and educational devices for severely handicapped children. Eldersburg, MD: Linda J. Burkhart.

Burkhart, L. (1982). More homemade battery devices for severely handicapped children with suggested activities. Eldersburg, MD: Linda J. Burkhart.

Burkhart, L. (1987). Using computers and speech synthesis to facilitate communicative interaction with young and/or severely handicapped children. Eldersburg, MD: Linda J. Burkhart.

Goossens', C., and Crain, S. (1986a). Augmentative communication: Assessment resource. Wauconda, IL: Don Johnston.

Goossens', C., and Crain, S. (1986b). Augmentative communication: Intervention resource. Wauconda, IL: Don Johnston.

Goossens', C., and Crain, S. (1992). Utilizing switch interfaces with children who are severely physically challenged. Southeast Augmentative Communication Publications, 2430 11th Avenue, North, Birmingham, AL 35234 .

King-DeBaun, P. (1990) Storytime. Stories, Symbols, and Activities for Special Needs Children. Creative Communicating.

King-DeBaun, P. (1995) Babes in Bookland feature article in Closing the Gap Volume 14-Number 4.

King-DeBaun, P. (in progress) Babes in Bookland: Early Storytime Fun! Creative Communicating. Musselwhite, C. (1986). Adaptive play for special needs children: Strategies to enhance communication and learning. Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Musselwhite, C. & King-DeBaun, P.(1997) Emergent Literacy Success: Merging Technology and Whole Language for Students with Disabilities. Creative Communicating.

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