Another area to think about for your classroom is Communication. The next few posts will focus on set up considerations, receptive/expressive levels, how to embed communication opportunities during the school day, different communications systems, and communication stations/activities within your classroom.
As you look through your students’ IEPs determine your students’ means of communication (i.e. core boards, PECS book, AAC system, etc.). The students’ means and levels may vary significantly for all your students. Take a look at what type of communication systems your students have. If you have students with dynamic AAC systems (i.e. Nova Chat, DynaVox) you need to think through where you are going to charge and store the systems, as well as, where the systems are going to be in the classroom for easy access. The student should be able to access their device throughout the day. The AAC system is the student’s means of communication and should not be put in a drawer or closet. We aren’t expected to remove our voices for part of the day so neither should our students. When a person takes away a student’s communication system you taking away their voice and ability to communicate with others. Make sure the device is charged and ready to go at the beginning of each school day.
For student with no tech/low tech systems such as a PECS book, core boards, or GoTalk you also need to determine where to place them so the student can use them around the classroom. Make sure the pictures in the student’s communication book are functional and appropriate for the student. There are different ways to utilize communication systems within your classroom. For example, in one of my preschool classrooms, the student are just beginning to work on communication exchange. In this classroom, the teacher and I focus on establishing communication intent and purpose for these students. These students are working on the foundational skills of communication. In this room I created a communication book with just food and pictures related to eating (i.e. plate, spoon) and another communication book with crafts and basic concepts (colors, shapes, etc). I have these book on the shelf were the student receive small group instruction so it’s easy for the teacher to use the book while working in small groups with the students. The food book is also easily accessible so during snack time it is accessible for the teacher or me to use the book while helping the students with snack time. This is a great time to work on requesting!
Core boards can be hung in the room and used during circle time, centers, or anytime. One of my teachers hung a large core board where she does circle time so she can use it during this time. I also suggest putting core words up around the room instead of just nouns. For example, on the door put the works “open” and “close” instead of just the word “door”. When we go to the door we don’t typically just say “door” but instead “open” or “close”. If those words are on the door you can touch the words and model the action. For example, as the students line up at the door touch the word “open” and model the word as you pair it with the action of opening the door.
If you have some set systems in place for where to store and charge AAC devices, how to make sure those devices are easily accessible to use throughout the day, and how to incorporate no tech systems within the classroom it will help the transition into the new school year. I know I would be frustrated and act out if I did not have a means to express my wants and needs which is why it is so critical to think about ways to reduce this frustration with our students. Communication happens all day everyday so think about how this is going to be possible for yours students with limited or no verbal communication skills.