2001 Conference Proceedings

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The Development of Receptive Language Through the Use of Augmentative Communication Schedules and Calendars

Sara Gage, B.S.
Graduate Student
Department of Special Education
East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina 27858

Melissa Engleman, Ed.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Special Education
East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina 27858

Harold C. Griffin, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Special Education
East Carolina University
Greenville, North Carolina 27858

This presentation will focus on those individuals within the population who have the most significant levels of both hearing and vision loss. Specific areas of emphasis will include discussions concerning co-active movement, communication structures of calendars and communication shelves, movement from motor based cues to traditional visual and print communication modes, and strategies to increase structure and engagement levels for children. Children in the low incidence areas of autism, deafblindness, physical disorders, and severe/profound mental retardation will be the focus of the presentation.

Improved communication can enable all students to make choices, participate in school, make friends, participate in transition planning, and gain family acceptance. Most importantly, good communication skills enable students to live independently after they leave high school (Engleman, Griffin, Griffin, Maddox, 1999).

Engleman, Griffin, Griffin, Maddox (1999) point out that the development of an alternative assessment system depends on the use of various types of intervention. The first of these is multiple assessments over time and in varied contexts. Team planning with the family and student concerning appropriate communication strategies also is vital. A third area in the development of communication skills is the development of receptive communication skills. The growth of communication skills also requires a motivation for communication as well as the use of a variety of consistent communication cues which can be generalized to a variety of people and environments (Engleman, Griffin, Griffin, & Maddox, 1999; Hodgdon, 1999).

Frequently augmentative communication can be divided into nonlinguistic and linguistic communication modes. The nonlinguistic communication modes may consist of intentional behavior, touch cues, object cues, calendars/communication shelves, signals/gestures, other functional behavior, and co-active movement. Linguistic communication modes often include sign language, tactile sign language, tangible symbols and alphabet systems, and Tadoma (Engleman, Griffin, Griffin, & Maddox, 1999).

This presentation will focus on the development of nonlinguistic communication modes. Frequently the development of nonlinguistic communication skills depends on an organized environment. VanDijk (1986) notes that a delicate balance exists between children with sensory impairments and their environments. When this balance is changed through environmental disruptions or unexpected occurrences, these children become upset. Their anxiety is often demonstrated through head banging, self-biting, or other stereotypic behaviors.

The environment can be organized by alerting children to the structure of the day as well as any possible changes. Various systems can be utilized to assist children in being aware of coming events. A communication shelf system is an organization system where objects are used to represent activities used throughout the day (Wheeler, & Griffin, 1997). Children take an object (e. spoon) to their activity (e.g. eating). When the activity is over, children return the object to a finished box located near the communication shelf. Bennett, K., Griffin, H., Powers, J., Williford, K., Young, C., Jensema, C., Kane, K., and Jones, C (1995) point out that, through the use of communication shelves, children learn to sequence daily activities as well as acquire the concepts of beginning, middle, and end.

Another organizational tool is the use of schedules. Schedules along with physical organization of the classroom, visual structure, routines, and individual work systems are used by the Division TEACCH, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill program as part of their structured teaching intervention for children with autism. Mesibov, Schopler, and Hearsey (1994) point out that structure is essential to children with autism. Visually clear schedules seem to help children in the areas of sequencing, organization of time, understanding oral language and attending Hodgdon, 1996). Usually there are two types of schedules. The first is the general classroom schedule which provides the flow of events for classroom activities. A second type of schedule is the individual schedule. This helps students understand what to do during the activities listed on the general classroom schedule (Mesibov, Schopler, & Hearsey, 1994).

The development of receptive language through various structures, including both visual and tactual modalities is critical for children with multiple disabilities. Early intervention, consistency and the assessment of individual needs help in the development of a meaning communication system for children and adults.

References

Bennett, K., Griffin, H.., Powers, J., Williford, K., Young, C., Jensema, C., Kane, K. & Jones, C. (1995). Delivering effective instruction to students with deaf-blindness and/or other severe disabilities. Raleigh, NC: State Department of Public Instruction.

Engleman, M. Griffin, H., Griffin, L., & Maddox, J. (1999). A teacher’s guide to communicating with students with deaf-blindness. Teaching Exceptional Children, 31, 64-70.

Hodgdon, L. (1996). Visual strategies for improving communication: Practical supports for school and home. Troy, MI: QuirkRoberts Publishing.

Hodgdon, L. (1999). Solving behavior problems in autism: Improving communication with visual strategies. Troy, MI: QuirkRoberts Publishing.

Mesibov, G, Schopler, E., & Hearsey, K. (1994). Structured teaching. In E. Schopler, & G. Mesibov, (Eds.). Behavioral Issues in Autism. New York, NY: Plenum Press.

Van Dijk, J. (1986). An educational curriculum for deaf-blind multihandicapped persons. In D. Ellis (Ed.). Sensory impairments in mentally handicapped people (pp. 374-382). London: Croom-Helm.

Wheeler, L., & Griffin, H. (1997). A movement-based approach to language development in children who are deaf-blind. American Annals of the Deaf, 142, 387-390.


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