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Susan Comments on Small-Group Activity

Susan-photoIn large groups I have found it's just too confusing to use communication devices. In small groups we can teach more communication in conjunction with the other skills the children are learning related to academics and to communication.

Basically, I assess what I think each child can best use in the way of communication. We have one student still at the object level, one at the photograph level, a couple of kids who can deal with four-picture line drawings, and some who can deal with nine or eighteen, some who are using signing, some who use switches, and some children who use several of these modes. So at each group or each activity we're doing, I usually choose what works best for most of the children in the group because sometimes it's hard to give each child his or her own communication device and have it be a sane situation.

I sometimes group my children by what devices they're using so that we're not using too many devices in one group. Otherwise the group can become focused on using communication devices rather than the activity the devices are supposed to support. Sometimes the communication device can end up becoming what the group is about and that's not what we want. On the other hand, I don't like to group children by devices all day because then they don't have the opportunity to access higher level communication devices and you don't have speaking children with non-speaking children. It depends.

I'm not real restrictive about students speaking out or talking out of turn. They don't have to raise their hand or follow any certain rules for speaking out, but I do try to keep them on topic. As the teacher I can monitor what's being said. Communication is their greatest issue so the more they do it, the more practice they'll have.

At the beginning of the year, the speaking students functioned like non-speaking students--they didn't feel comfortable talking in a group for instance. I have a lot of students with Down Syndrome whose articulation is very poor. I can think of two of them right off the bat who hated to talk when they came because you constantly were having to say, "Can you tell me that again?" I find the more they talk, the more people around them understand them. So it's better to let them do a lot of comfortable talking out so they get practice talking and we get practice understanding them. I see a lot of improvement in articulation. The children who use devices, that's still a troublesome area, because voice output and communication boards aren't always heard. You tend to focus in on the students you hear. That's something I have to really concentrate on--drawing in and responding to the children who are non-speaking.

A lot of what I do comes naturally but verbalizing what I do is difficult. I go through my day and I have an internal sense of how to do these things. If I wanted to explain to someone what I do in my classroom I'd say "come watch."

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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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