Friday, July 29, 2016

Communication Desk for Students with Multiple Impairments

It's almost time to get back to school! If you are a teacher of a student with a multiple impairment including deafblindness or blindness, you need to read this!!
Communication is at the very top of my priority list when it comes to being a teacher. Our kiddos need consistent opportunities for expressive and receptive communication. The second priority on my instruction list is creating defined spaces. Defined spaces allow our students to be anchored in space/environment/body and then sets the framework for anticipation.  

If you are unsure on how to use a calendar box system, read these articles:

The student communication desk idea follows tactual symbols/calendar box system strategy and using a defines space. The students that use these desks that are pictures are those with multiple impairments or show Autistic like behaviors and have significant vision impairments. All of the students are non-verbal. 

The teacher has done a terrific job of implementing tactual/object symbols for instruction. She was stumped because using a traditional finished box was not working. We needed to find a solution that would help students establish that a concept/lesson/symbol was finished but wouldn't fly away (if thrown) and was unique enough that they could comprehend "finished". 
Solution: The object symbols (routine for the day) are laid out across on top. The blue or red felt area that is perpendicular is the finished area. Notice that it is a defined area that is unique. It is a clearly defined finished area. Students place finished symbols on the felt area. These two areas teach spatial awareness (across and top/bottom), literacy (left to right, reading symbols) and self determination (students make choices and can communicate based on the location of the symbols) and communication. 

The student communication desk also teaches compensatory skills including communication and reading their name by tactually identifying their desk (notice the symbol placed at the bottom right of the desk and on their chair). 

Their academic piece as well as any career ed/work for reward also follows a consistent communication system. Notice the discreet trial training boards (penny boards) that have each students' unique symbol. 

Note: We placed their boards and binders on the desk for the purpose of this picture. All of these items may be on the desk at one time depending on activity. It is important to note that each of these items have a specific and consistent placement for students. 

I can't reiterate enough that knowledge is key for using the communication desk idea. You must have knowledge of calendar box systems, creating tactual symbols and communication strategies. There are some terrific articles out there about incorporating, implementing and standardizing tactual symbols for students with vision impairments. Here is one that I really like from Paths to Literacy.
The tactual symbols pictured were created from the APH Tactile Connections Kit. It's a quality kit that can be purchased on quota funds via APH. Make sure you have a quality hot glue gun and hook & loop (Velcro, too!). Always remember that symbols should be easy to replicate (always save extra fabric or duplicates of object). Symbols can be eaten, slobbered on and tossed in a heartbeat. 

I love this desk idea especially for our nonverbal students that do not use a complex communication system. You can build on these symbols and concepts. I love that this teacher uses consistency for the students. And yes, it does implement Expanded Core Curriculum objectives!!