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Barbara Comments on Engineering the Classroom Environment to Optimize Access

Barbara-photoWe don't engineer the classroom to a specific child; we engineer it to reflect a typical preschool environment that one might find in the broader community. That's our baseline. We then engineer the classroom so that every child has access to that environment. That's when the symbols, the switches, the peripherals, and the hi-tech stuff comes into play. So each center has symbols and photographs that contain the vocabulary needed to support conversation in the center. The peripherals, like switches, ensure that every activity in the center is accessible to all the children.

The devices are not child-specific, rather they belong to the classroom. We have the foundation--things like the single switches, electronic devices like the pouring cup, Intellikeys (Intellitools), the mounting systems-the velcro, the clamps. As children come and join us through the years, these devices are there; they don't leave the program with the children. That's important for us--to have the materials available so that we can troubleshoot the issues as they come up.

Everything in the classroom is shared by all the students. It's a shared language, shared devices. The typical students have access to the special devices, too. That's an important piece to this engineering, that these things are not just singled out for the children with disabilities. If the typical children start to use the devices, they are modelling this and it becomes very motivational for the children who need these devices for access.

We use baggies to store symbols a lot. I sometimes give each aide a baggie at the beginning of the week with some of the symbols we will be using that week. The aids need to be able to get these things in a timely fashion, because if they don't have it when we're doing it, and they have to go look for it, the moment is gone.


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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP)  in collaboration with the Center for Literacy and Disabilities (CLD)  at Duke University.   NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by CLD, NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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