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.

Fidget Mazes and Happy New Year 2015

4 Jan

I hope everyone had a good holiday break and are refreshed for 2015.  My holiday  took an interesting turn this year. I strained my back wiping  dog feet the weekend before Christmas.  Large dog feet  but that really shouldn’t have done it. Who could be mad at a face like this.Baxter head

Moving around like I usually do was pretty much out of the question.  My husband dutifully took over household chores including cooking.  It was one the most restful holidays I ever had.

I was just beginning to feel better when the 2nd bad turn happened. My web site was hacked into December 29th. I am thinking that most of you were not visiting at that time which was probably a good thing.  If you were you might have been greeted by Russian prose.  You can imagine how surprised I was.

As most of you know, I became self hosted in July and moved my Word press blog. It gave me a little more freedom for developing the blog and got rid of the ads.  I knew there was a risk for hacking but didn’t think it would happen so soon.  Fortunately I used a local server; Host Pond.  I contacted them and they  provided personal service promptly.  Host Pond helped me  by cleaning up and putting new security measures in place.  I think the Russians were in control only a couple of days.  The representative from Host Pond patiently explained to me what security risks I had. So now with a new plugin (Wordfence)  I will be notified by email when someone suddenly has administrator privileges.  

By the way, my old site cjmonty.wordpress.com is still coming up as a bad site in Google.  As a connected site it was flagged as well.   It is only used for referral purposes and I will be dropping it. Now would be a good time to drop that url if you haven’t done so already.

I did manage to get a little preparation done for when I get back.   I have several students who benefit from fidget toys.  You may have noticed cloth marble mazes on Pinterest if you were looking for sensory fidget items.  They looked simple to make and I am always looking for  items that can not become missiles in the end.

To make them I used textured cloth; fleece and terry cloth.  I cut a 9 inch circle for one and 9x 8 inch square for the other. I then sewed around the edge leaving a gap to turn it inside out.

After turning it inside out, I  drew a maze leaving 1 1/4 inch channel for the marble to move through.  I then sewed on the lines with my sewing machine.  These can be as simple or difficult as you want to make them.

I made the circle look like a snail with the marble moving from the edge to the inner circle.  Just sew a spiral going to the center.  I used a simple stitch first to make sure the marble would make it through and then used a stretch stitch to make it sturdier.

 

roundmarblemaze

For the square I sewed straight lines.

rectangmarblemaze

 

 

 Remember to alternate the lines from reaching the edge so you have a path for the marble.
  When you are finished,  insert a marble through the opening  and sew the opening shut.
 Students use their fingers to move the marble through the maze.
marblemazeall
The teachers really had good reviews on these. They held up well and were washable. once I got the hang of it, I could make one in 20 minutes.

How do we get students to follow directions?

7 Nov

 

cropped-photo-2.jpg

Every year there seems to be a  speech area that rises above all  the others.  This year I am hearing a lot about students who do not follow directions.  There can actually be a lot of reasons for this to include being distracted by the environment,  sensory issues around space and movement, not understanding the directions, not understanding the rules of turn taking (speaking vs listening) and difficulty with short term memory.  Of course some students have all of these things in different degrees working together to get them off track.  If one student is having difficulty they  can disrupt the learning environment for any of the other students causing a chain reaction.  It is no wonder that our teachers find this a concern.

Classroom management and warm up activities can go a long way in  helping students get prepared to focus or get them back on track.  I have included some  resources you may find useful for therapy or to pass on to your teachers.  Some of them are our tried an true therapy games, but maybe you haven’t thought of them in the framework of building memory or following directions.

This web site has good suggestions for teachers on classroom management to enhance the ability of students to follow directions.   http://thecornerstoneforteachers.com/2013/05/how-to-get-students-to-follow-directions.html

Body Jive   is a CD that has warm up activities for movement and following directions. I have used it as a warm up activity before social groups.   The site has some activity/song previews so you can get an idea of what they sound like.ARCD96

“Simon Says” and  “The Previous Command” are two traditional children’s games that do not need special materials and can be used at a moments notice.

[wpdm_file id=18]      Previous command instructions

There  are the traditional card games such as “Go Fish  and “Memory Game” that can build a number of skills depending what is on the cards.  Some children need direct instruction on turn taking and paying attention to the cards drawn prior to their turn.  They will choose or flip cards indiscriminately  and not realize they need to remember cards.

Barrier games help build directional vocabulary and concepts.  Not understanding the prepositions in directions often add to the confusion of our language delayed students.  Be aware that some students have difficulty with words such as before, after, while, any, neither, either, during, not and none.  Try to give directions in several ways so the students get the meanings. For example; “Take any color means you take only one”

Goofy Follows Directions;  part of an educational film made by Disney. It illustrates  the importance of following directions.

 

In honor of Thanksgiving, I put The Never Ever Dinner Plate activity on sale on TPT.  I use this activity  this time of year because it fits in the themes of “Food” and “Dinner”.  It also teaches the concept of “Not”.  A direction with “not” can sometimes trigger the student to do the opposite of what you want because they don’t hear or understand the “Not” part.

dinner plate cover jpg