1998 Conference Proceedings

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Carolyn Rouse, CCC-SLP and Katera Murphy
Creative Communication Solutions, LLC
8516 W. Lake Mead, Suite 196
Las Vegas, NV 89128

“I just got a new student. Casey is nonverbal and has a communication device. I really want to help this child, but how am I going to do this with 26 other children? I don’t have the time for the extra preparation needed. Everyone wants to hold me accountable for this student’s progress but I barely have time to get my paper work finished. Help!”

Have you ever felt like this? We hear these same concerns from the teachers we see everyday. Teachers who are caring and dedicated, but are simply overwhelmed. Through years of helping teachers with these problems we have collected ideas that have been successful in making life easier for them and at the same time helping the nonverbal student be more successful in the classroom. We put these ideas together in a Book and video entitled “Quick and Easy Ideas and Materials For Using Classroom Materials to Teach Academics to Nonverbal Children”.

Here are a few of our strategies:

Most communication boards can be programmed very quickly once the board has been mastered. However making the overlays can be time consuming.

Making communication overlays from work sheets and textbooks themselves instead of relying on commercial symbol sets is one way to speed up this process. Work sheets can be shrunk or enlarged so that they fit on the overlay. Many work sheets can be used as is by simply cutting them apart and pasting the components on blank communication board grids. This is something an aide, parent or even older student could easily make freeing up the teacher’s time. Communication boards, used in this way, can actually help the teacher teach the lesson on the overlay to the entire class making the communication board an additional classroom teaching aid.

Another idea to increase the ease and effectiveness of the communication that can be used over and over throughout the school year. For example, make the art overlay with standard art supplies you would probably use in any art project but leave some squares blank. Put velcro on the blank squares so you can attach the pictures of special supplies needed for a particular project. So when making a jack’o lantern in the blank squares you will attach pictures of pumpkins and facial features needed for that project. At Christmas these can be removed and replaced with sequins and glitter when making a fancy Christmas tree ornament. Part of the communication board vocabulary is set and part of it is fluid so it can be adjusted for each art activity instead of having to remake the entire board each time.

An additional way to save time in preparing communication overlays for academic subjects is to make overlays that can be used for more than one lesson or activity. For example, when creating a phonics overlay put items beginning with “B”, “F”, “K”, and “S” on the same overlay so that it can be used for four weeks of lessons on those sounds.

The auditory feedback you get from a communication device gives the child immediate feedback on the correctness of his answer. For example, if you ask the child to show you the word “house” on his communication board and the board says “house” the child can immediately feel successful. However, if the board says. “tree” the child doesn’t need to be told that he made an error. It is easy to see how this could benefit the verbal students in the class also. By allowing them to learn their reading words in this manner with the nonverbal student you may foster more than just better reading skills.

In addition, many communication devices have key linking features, where by the student must activate a sequence of keys to have the board speak. For example, the child must press the key with the word “red” and the square with the color red to hear the board speak. If he is correct the board may say something like “Red, you found the color red”. If t uld not speak therefore offering no reinforcement. Imagine the possibilities, programming spelling words, math facts, grammar lessons etc.

These are but a few of the ideas and materials available in our book, “Quick and Easy Ideas and Materials to Teach Academics to Nonverbal Students” This book is a companion to the academic materials classroom teachers are already using. It is not textbook series specific but gives ideas on adaptations for common classroom materials in most major subject areas (preschool through elementary). It also gives ideas on using picture symbol systems throughout the classroom, school, playground, special class setting etc. This has particular benefits for teachers of autism since it fits well with the Picture Exchange Communication System which is gaining prominence with that population. It also provides ready to use generic materials that can be adapted and used on most commercially available communication devices.

The video, “Quick and Easy Ideas for using Classroom Materials to Teach Academics to Nonverbal Children” is an expansion of this concept taking our ideas and demonstrating their usage through out the school day in all major subject areas.

If you are interested in more information about either of these products you may contact us at Creative Communication Solutions, LLC 8516 W. Lake Mead, Suite 196 Las Vegas, NV 89128 or e-mail us at cre8comsol@aol.com

About the Speakers

Carolyn Rouse, CCC-SLP is a speech-language pathologist with over 20 years experience working in schools, hospitals, nursing homes and supported living environments. She is currently working exclusively as a speech therapist serving children using augmentative communication throughout Clark County Schools in Las Vegas, NV (the 10th largest school district in the nation). She has written two books and produced two videos on the subject of augmentative communication and is gaining attention as a speaker on this subject at national conferences such as Closing the Gap in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the CSUN Assistive technology conference in Northridge CA. She is currently serving on the Nevada State Assistive Technology Consortium and is the Nevada representative on the Legislative Council for ASHA.

Katera Murphy, M.S. is a speech-language pathologist and former 4th grade teacher. She is currently working as a specialist in augmentative communication with Clark County Schools and has served for over 12 years as a speech pathologist in special schools for handicapped children . She has written 2 books and produced two videos on augmentative communication and has received national attention as a speaker on using augmentative communication in the home as well as in the classroom. Her combination of both speech and classroom experience has helped her to be a voice for practicality in integrating augmentative communication in various settings without being intrusive or overly time consuming. Her cry of “remember quick and easy” is beginning to be heard nation wide. She has taught a class on Augmentative Communication at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Currently she is serving on the Nevada Assistive Technology Consortium helping to develop state standards for implementing assistive technology in the schools.

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