1999 Conference Proceedings

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Jackie Cooper-Glenn
Linda Ynostroza
Kern County Superintendent of Schools
1300 17th Street
Bakersfield, CA 93301

Christine Sotelo
Bakersfield City School District
1300 Baker Street
Bakersfield, CA 93305


In order to increase communicative interactions among severely physically disabled students, a peer tutor program was established. Using vocal output and other switch-activated devices, peer tutors were encouraged to evoke, recognize, and reinforce communicative, social, and independent behaviors.


Through hands-on activities, games, and field trips, sixth, seventh and eighth grade students were encouraged to interact with children with severe to profound physical handicaps. They were shown how to play with the children, provide physical assistance as appropriate, recognize and reinforce communication signals, and how to program and use vocal output devices. The volunteers could either sign-up and have our program as an elective or come in during their lunch hour. They came in daily and depending on the time of day, engaged in art, cooking, or play activities.

Socialization and communication were the primary goals. Switch- activated devices were used for hands-on activities. These were considered modalities through which relationships developed and communication interactions could take place.

They were shown how to use hand-over-hand assistance and how to fade that assistance. They were encouraged to use parallel talk and occassionally just monologue. We noted an increase in their ability to recognize specific communication signals and to respond appropriately. They were shown how to program simple vocal output devices and encouraged to use them imaginitively. As they helped the children in theme-related art and cooking projects, switch-activated devices including electric scissors, painting devices, pouring and mixing appliances, among other things.

We encouraged them to engage the child and suggested or modeled various activities and approaches. We found that, if we did not over-structure an activity, the volunteers themselves would develop variations which reflected their own preferences and sense of fun. When the volunteers wanted to socialize among themselves, they were encouraged to include the children by using the vocal output devices, such as having the child be part of a joke, riddle, or song.

Group games such as "Duck, duck, goose," baseball, and bowling provided kinesthetic, auditory, tactile, and visual stimulation.

Vocal output devices were used to enable the children to play games such as "red light, green light."

The volunteers who participated in this program increased not only their technical, interactive, and observational skills, but given the freedom to use adaptive and communicative devices in creative new ways; they reported an increased sense of pride, affection, and community.

We found that the children responded differently to the volunteers than they did to the adult staff. They initiated more communicative interactions and responded with greater animation during interactions. During volunteer-managed activities, there was an increase in the quality and quantitiy of independent behaviors.


This program will be presented by Jackie Cooper-Glenn, speech pathologist, Linda Ynostroza, special education teacher, and Christine Sotelo, Opportunity Class teacher. It will include video examples of our volunteers working and playing with our students in a variety of situations with various switch-activated communication and adaptive devices. The effect of the experiences upon the volunteers themselves will be discussed by Ms. Sotelo

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