Tuesday, August 19, 2014

First Day of School Resources

We still have a few weeks before we return to school in NYC, but I see a lot of folks are returning already. (My apologies if this is too late to make it for your very first day!) Sending a child with complex communication needs (aka a "nonverbal" child) carries a special level of stress . . . will the teachers understand her signals? Will they view negative behaviors simply as acting out, rather than deciphering the communication behind them? Will they move her talker away if there are too many things on her desk?

Here are some of the resources that I send in with Maya (if possible I also email this to teachers/therapists prior to the first day, but I also send hard copies in the backpack), along with a few other tips to help smooth the way into a new classroom.

First, she brings in a packet of information about herself. I try to keep it brief but informative (2-3 pages, well broken up into categories and spaced out). Enough so that the teachers can get a nice synopsis, but not so much that they won't flip through it. It speaks about her personality, her talker, my personal view on speech and academic goals, and pertinent medical and behavioral information. A sample document (with some omitted information) can be viewed here. 

Next, she brings in a folder that contains resources about her talker.

In the folder is information relating to her communication device. I include two copies of each item in the folder, one to remain in the office of the SLP, and one to be available in the classroom.

The contents of the folder are:

  • An information/programming guide about her app for staff. I don't actually want the staff adding or deleting words until I know them and am sure we're on the same page, so I don't provide that information. My guide also includes links to videos of Maya using her app at home, so that they can see what she is capable of. 
  • An app map, care of the Speak for Yourself team. That file can be found in the "files" tab of the Speak for Yourself users group on Facebook. I laminate these so that they can take a beating in the classroom without getting ripped or wet.

The image and text on the front of the folder are the same as the information that I include on the back of her talker:

This is the file for the above image.

Finally, Maya and I make a booklet together that she can bring to share with staff and classmates. Here are a few sample pages from this summer's booklet:

One thing that I can not overemphasize is VIDEO. If you have a child with complex communication needs, get video at home---video of using their device, talking, reading, showing off skills. It's much easier for staff to embrace high expectations and presume competence when they get a glimpse up front of the awesome things that our kids are capable of.


Joyful Journey Mom said...

I am so glad to have read your blog.My daughter is also non-verbal and this will be our second preschool year. I am in the process of doing similar preparations to help with communication.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE that you are so proactive with everything regarding maya and schooling. I WISH I had parents in my class like you -- heck, I with the parents in my class would be even half as involved as you. (Some days, just having a parent read a notebook is exciting).

As a preschool special education teacher, my only suggestion to your packet of info would be to see if you could drop the info off a day before. Typically, teachers have a staff conference day prior to school starting with the students. Those are so boring. I would love getting to know a bit about a new student on that day so when I were to meet the newbie, I'd be a little familiar with how awesome they are. :)

Way to go, Mom!!

Elise (Kids Included Together) said...

Wow!!! This is such a wonderful idea! As a special education teacher, these are the amazing things I would love every parent to be sending in! Every single student has unique challenges (and talents!), and sometimes it is difficult to learn all of those things just by reading the students' IEPs before they arrive. This has really encouraged me to think about ways to engage parents and students before school starts. I work for Kids Included Together, an organization that trains recreational programs (think after-school programs, camps, etc.) and daycare centers to best support kids with disabilities and create meaningful inclusive experiences for all kids. We should start telling our trainees to try engaging parents in activities like this! Have you thought about partnering with Maya's teachers to design an activity in her class to explain to other students what her talker is and how it works? It might be a cool way to engage the typically-developing students and to answer any of their questions that might come up! This is so great, keep it up! I know Maya's teacher is so lucky to have such a wonderful mom to partner with!