2000 Conference Proceedings

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Its New, Networked, and Needed: NEWS-4-YOU

Jacquie Clark, M.A.,CCC-SLP
News-4-You, Ltd.
740 South Troy Avenue
Cincinnati, Ohio 45246

Everyone needs ready access to sources of new information, the basic content that makes our conversations interesting and meaningful. All individuals have a right to current information, not just those of us able to decipher the information-intense formats favored by newspapers, radio and television. But how is that need and right met within the special needs community? This presentation provides a partial answer to that question.

NEWS-4-YOU is an internet service designed for individuals who need the stimulation that only concise visual concepts can provide. The newspaper provides "big picture" news to a population largely denied that data. NEWS-4-YOU began over ten years ago in a single school district as a symbol-based newspaper. The newspaper used mostly Mayer-Johnson Picture Communication Symbols, and it was an instant hit.

Sharing the NEWS-4-YOU concept, however, proved difficult; there was just no easy way to reach additional student populations in a timely manner. In 1996, a "how-to" book was published in an effort to "spread the word" of this new teaching tool. Although the book was modest success, it still did not accomplish the author's ultimate objective: to provide a true current events newspaper to a national audience. Now, thanks to the internet, that objective is being accomplished.

NEWS-4-YOU is available each week at http://www.news-4-you.com. It provides subscribers with 9-16 pages of new (all symbol-supported) information. The paper leads with a 4-8 page feature story taken from the week's news. There is also a recipe, a joke, a related activity, and a wh-question review page. All the activities are related in some way to the central topic of the paper. If there is important additional weekly news such as holidays, sporting events, etc., "Extra News" pages are added. The last page includes 4-6 large pictures of the "Words of the Week". These can be used as communication aids and in vocabulary enhancement activities.

Subscribers also receive a disk containing additional pages--weather, sports, birthdays, etc.--which allows them to expand the paper's generic content. Local "editors" can then personalize the product, highlighting classroom-level news and personalities. The disk provided is either the IBM or Mac version of Boardmaker, Claris or Microsoft Word, dependent on the subscriber's need.

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NEWS-4-YOU can be adapted for any age group. It is being used in special education classrooms, preschools, workshops and in many consulting programs. It is an exceptional tool for mainstreamed and inclusive students. It has also been used effectively by primary school teachers who report it to be a great way to involve their lower level readers in reading activities. NEWS-4-YOU allows them too to participate, along side their reading neighbors.

Functional curriculums make a great deal of sense, but we do not generally base our social interactions around those functional activities. We all need "new" and relevant information, and that is what NEWS-4-YOU provides. Many teachers describe vocabulary growth from using the newspaper. Successful social interactions build confidence. And that success carries over to the home, where parents say that NEWS-4-YOU provides them with the conversational means to involve the special needs child in dinner table conversations, often for the first time.

This session will trace the evolution of NEWS-4-YOU from classroom project to internet presence, emphasizing the teaching and socialization needs that the service fulfills. There will also be discussion on how to adapt and extend the newspaper to differing student needs.

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Reprinted with author(s) permission. Author(s) retain copyright.