1999 Conference Proceedings

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Carolyn Rouse
Katera Murphy

The challenges of being a classroom teacher are ever more demanding. Trying to find the time to meet the demands of the students, parents, and administrators and keeping up with paperwork becomes an increasingly challenging job. With the advent of inclusion, teachers are faced with the additional work needed to include special students in their classroom routine and activities. These students often require special help, special materials, and an adapted curriculum due to their learning and/or physical disabilities. There are preplanned curriculum packages for the regular education student; however, very little of this material has been adapted for handicapped youngsters. This, of course, requires that our already overburdened teacher must take the time to adapt materials. Examples are:

Classroom overlays can be divided into one of two types:

  1. Core Overlays, which are made at the beginning of the school year and used throughout the year with little or no changes needed. These are the overlays that you can always fall back on because they are ready to use and are usually appropriate for any lesson in that subject area. Thus, they are the backbone of your academic overlay system. Examples of core overlays are:

    The Alphabet Overlay for Spelling
    The Calculator Overlay for Math

  2. Unit Overlays are overlays that are designed for specific lessons or units that you are teaching. We recommend these for subjects that change more frequently and are more specific in nature, for example, teaching plants in Science or visiting a particular place in Geography. These overlays can be made once a week or once a month, depending on how quickly this student can move and how quickly you are teaching this subject to the class. It is your choice. You may find that if the child can't talk, it's impossible for him/her to read. However, often nonverbal children are very capable of learning to read.

Just as you would begin to teach sight words to your regular children, you would do the same thing with your special child. Ordinarily you would ask the children to read words for you. To adapt this lesson for your special child write these words on a a blank piece of paper and ask the special child to point to the word the class is reading or that you will be requesting.

As you move into reading stories, you may use the same pointing board or communication board. Be sure to mix up the reading words and program the board accordingly. Ask the special child to find each word. Then read the first sentence from the story to the child and have him//her repeat the sentence by finding the words and pushing the appropriate squares on the communication board. If he/she can repeat the sentence using his/her communication device with random word order, you can accurately determine how well the child is reading the words.

Cut away grids are a must when designing overlays with lots of similar items such as words. You can save a lot of time by putting as many reading words as you can get on the grid initially. Then use a blank grid to cover the words you don't need for this specific activity. Reveal more and more words as you need them. In this way you don't have to keep making overlays again and again.

Making overlays in this way makes it possible for the nonverbal child to participate in reading groups, which are common in young elementary classrooms. In the reading group each child usually takes a turn reading a part of the story. When it is the nonverbal student's turn, again, simply read his part for him and see if he can repeat it with his communication device. Then you know he/she can read the words. Additionally, it will also give him/her valuable practice with word order and sentence construction. These are two important communication skills as well as reading skills. Errors made in constructing the sentences you modeled may give you clues about comprehension difficulties. For example, if the child always misses the preposition in the sentence it may be because he lacks the concept.

Comprehension questions can be answered by either pointing to pictures in the book or specific words on the board. Another option would be to take pictures of story characters and copy them to put on the child's communication board so that he/she can reply to questions.

If this is a child who is a nonreader, he/she can still be included in a reading group. There are several ways to do this:

The child will simply match the sticker on the book page (on the post-it note) with the sticker on the communication board. When it is his/her turn, have the nonverbal child hit the stickered key on the overlay to 'read' the passage.

This does not actually teach reading to the student, but it does teach him/her such prereading skills as:

  1. attending to the story
  2. taking turns
  3. following along with the text
  4. learning when it is appropriate to turn the page
  5. recognizing a few words in context and
  6. answering comprehension questions by pointing to pictures in the book

We hope we have demonstrated how including nonverbal children in the classroom does not have to be a monumental task. Not only can you quickly and easily adapt materials for your special student but many of these materials will benefit the entire class. The above information was taken from the book, 'Quick and Easy Ideas for Using Classroom materials to Teach Academics to Nonverbal Children AND MORE'.

More information can be obtained by:
e-mail at: cre8comsol@aol.com 

or writing to:
Creative Communication Solutions
8516 W. Lake Mead
Suite 196
Las Vegas, NV 89128

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