Tips for our Homeschooled Non Verbal Students

25 Nov

COVID 19 has created an educational challenge for providing a home school education program for non verbal students. Many educators, teaching virtually, are trying to provide lessons using materials available in a student’s home environment. I have decided to highlight some of the lessons I have used in the past that would meet that need. If the student is participating by virtual means, you may need the help of a caretaker to prepare materials, model responses, and help the student. Most of the materials are common objects available to students at home.

The original posts for these activities can be found by searching in the archives of past posts under the tag Therapy Activities from Scratch and Communication Boards. The search tools can be found in the right column.

Does your student have goals such as maintaining focus, taking turns, increasing vocabulary and increasing sentence length? Many play activities only need visuals such as communication boards and props to make them into structured learning activities to address these goals. If a student has physical difficulties and is not able to manipulate objects, they can still participate by directing and making requests with a partner using a communication board or system.

There are a number of reasons to use communication boards and systems. They lead to more natural social communication with mutual turn taking. They can add structure and provide cues for repeating key phrases. They also provide visual support for children who have limited oral speech and understanding.

Educators can easily adapt to a students learning level and needs with the use of a communication board. An educator begins by providing full verbal models and pointing to the icons while providing a verbal model. They can then use the icons as prompts by pointing to the icons and waiting for the student to provide the verbal output. Eventually the student will prompt themselves by pointing to the icon and providing the verbal output independently. Finally they will no longer need the communication board during the activity and participate verbally without it. If a student’s intelligibility is poor, you will still know what he is attempting to say because the student can use icons as a visual cues. Hopefully you will avoid interactions such as “Say what I say” or ” I don’t understand, say it again.” Many students become frustrated when they find themselves in this type of communication exchange and then refuse to participate.

I have posted pictures of boards I have made in the past, for examples. You will need to adapt the icons for the materials and objects available to your student. There are a number of sources of pictures for making communication boards. Some of my sources include Open clip art, clip art from Teachers Pay Teachers (some are free samples) and Pictoselector which is a free program for Windows users. It can be found at https://www.picto-selector.eu/about/freeware/. Pictoselector allows you to use grid templates for icon placement and a number of icons. Boardmaker is another program that many schools have subscriptions too.

Toys and Grab Bag
Wind up toys with grab bag

A grab bag with toys is an easy item that can be made in the home environment. This one was made by cutting the sleeve off a sweater and sewing or gluing the bottom seam shut. You can put a number of different toys in the bag. Wind up toys are one of my favorite tools. They are always a high interest item.

The bag allows control of the objects from indiscriminate grabbing and hoarding, and facilitates turn taking. If the child is unable to wind or pull to activate a toy, all the better. That means they will need to request an action.

The Dollar store, Target Bargain bin, and Happy Meals are good places to find wind up toys. Mine have lasted a number of years. The student may also have favorite objects at home such as tops, balls, buttons, old switches, and tools.

Communication Board for Wind up Toys
Board made using Pictoselector
Stuffed Animals

Many students have a collection of stuffed animals matchbox cars or other objects. Add a fancy box and these can be put to good use. Hide an item in the box and have a student answer questions to find out its identity. The communication board is helpful for cuing a student for appropriate descriptive questions. Begin by modeling the questions while pointing to the pictures.

Animal Questions with icons from Open Clipart

Matchbox vehicles are a favorite activity. Students often acquire a stash of different ones because they are a cheap item to get on a shopping trip. I was lucky to be gifted a pack by parents and I collected more over the years. you can use them in the grab bag also.

Question Board for Vehicles

I’ve used this map with students to work with prepositions and descriptive vocabulary. The picture is an example of a simple map that can made by students to review the prepositions across, over, through, and between. It can be used with dice or a spinner as a simple board game, but students also like just driving along and telling where they are. You can have multiple trials by having them request different vehicles for making the trip.

Vehicle Board using Boardmaker

The race game is another opportunity to use the same cars. Students choose cars and then make comparisons and prediction on which vehicles will be first or last. It is another activity that provides opportunities to use adjectives and verbs.

Caregivers may want to venture out on their own with materials. However, I recommend that you consult with your student’s Speech and Language Pathologist (SLP) for constructing communication boards, and visuals to meet your student’s specific needs and goals. Although communication boards are presented here as examples, your student’s SLP will know the best vocabulary and language level for your student. An Occupational Therapist (OT) can help with setting up access to a communication board and tools so a student with a physical disability can manipulate objects. These professionals play important roles in an student’s education program and I can not guarantee results when their input is not included with a students education program.

I hope these examples give you some ideas. I would love to hear from fellow educators if you have other examples or ideas to share. If you are willing to share, I can add them to this blog post. You can comment by clicking on the comment cloud located at the top of the post by the heading. I monitor comments for spam so you will not see it posted immediately. You can also tell me if you would prefer to be incognito. Good Luck and stay healthy.

A reminder that TPT is having its seasonal sale.

One Cut Books are Great for A Home School Activity

26 Mar
One cut book
Make Your Own Book

Are you looking for learning activities for your home schooled children during the extended school closures? One Cut Books are simple projects that can be used for multiple ages and grade levels.   They can be adapted well to any subject. They can be used for creative writing, vocabulary, listing facts, and articulation drill. You can use them to review information later on.

All you need to get started is paper and drawing or writing utensils.  There is a free template provided below. A computer and printer are needed to print the template, but you could get by with a ruler and measure out a template. You can also set the template up in Power Point using a 3×2 table without a border, inserted into a 8.5 x 11 inch page in landscape mode. You can then insert your own clip art. Remember that the clip art needs to be flipped upside down on the top section. When printing it out, make sure the printer is set to print the full 8.5 x 11 inch page, without a border. This will allow each page to be the same size when folded. You may need to go to custom settings on your printer to select “without border”. You need to print in landscape mode as well.

I have included a free download of the Penguin Preposition book to get you started. There is also a site that has already made books. A group of them have been made for you thanks to Judy Kuster and 22 graduate students at Minnesota State University.  Just go to this site http://www.mnsu.edu/comdis/kuster2/onecutbooks/onecutbooks.html   Thank you grad students.

Now let me show you how easy it is to make a book. Lets start with the template and directions. Students can write or draw their own images. I made the template in Power Point to make the Preposition Penguins book. You can download pdf version of this by clicking on the picture of the template below.

Click above for Penguin Preposition book
  1. After printing your template, fold it in half on the dot and dash line. This makes it easier for you to cut the red line. Cut the red line.
  2. Fold on the dash lines so it looks like this.

3. Fold the top section to the back along the light blue lines. You should be able to open up the red line that you cut at the beginning.

4. Flatten the diamond center by pushing the two ends inward. The pages will be double sided. It should look like this.

Please respect my efforts. You may use my free down loads with parents, and students on your caseloads and in your classrooms. Do not copy, post, or distribute them on other sites. Please do not use for commercial purposes. You may refer people to this blog to obtain their own personal copy.

Stay healthy everyone and practice social distancing. We will get through this by working together.

What animal is it? Question Activity

12 Mar

20160311_075422

Do you have a collection of stuffed animals that seems to reproduce before your very eyes?  I do.   I inherited a collection of Beanie Babies from my children when they left home.  They were so adorable that I had difficulty parting with them.  Naturally they ended up in my  room of misfit toys, my therapy room.  I have them stored in a shoe storage unit that fits over a door.  As people noticed them they added more to the collection.  After I started using them for therapy, I found how valuable they truly are.

The animals are very enticing even to some of my older students who have moved on to Minecraft. I  have used them for calming distraught Kindergarten students.  Teachers  have borrowed one for the day to get a student through trauma.  Students have used them when they forgot theirs on a “Read to your stuffed animal day.”

I have used them when reading animal stories.  Students take a animal from a grab bag and  listen for the part of the story where  their animal shows up.  It keeps them focused on the story and gives something for their hands to hold.

I have some unusual ones that become a help for expanding vocabulary.   For example, some students have not had exposure to a jelly fish.  I know my stuffed animal is not an exact replica  but does give the idea.   This leads  to a discussion to what is different about a real jellyfish and the stuffed version.  My jellyfish has the typical stuffed animal round eyes which led to the question, “Do jellyfish have eyes?”.    We explored this on the iPad and it provided a very interesting topic.

They are great for categorization according to traits.  A favorite activity I made up is ” Mystery Animal”.  I especially like this activity for its use of questions and cognitive skills. It is a memory and cognitive task to remember the details and use that information in a meaningful way. I have a velvet box that is the mystery box.  One student hides an animal in the box and the other students ask questions to determine its identity.  The rule is they need to ask a descriptive question before they can identify the animal. Some of  my students have difficulty coming up with relevant questions or ask the same questions several times.  I made this communication board to help them with formulating questions.

 

This is a pdf version you may be able to download and print  for use.   What animal

They have been used as rewards for behavior plans.  Students earn animal babysitting priveledges and  swap one out occasionally.  This keeps the incentive going.  It is nice to have an incentive that doesn’t need funding or involve food.

Amazingly, I have only lost a few over the years.  They seem to find their way back to my room at the end of the school year.