Everyone Communicates in Some way; The Quilt Stories Continue

Everyone Communicates

Kyle did not use words to communicate, but those who took time to develop a relationship with him knew when he was happy, frustrated or upset. When he stood on his tip toes, rotated both hands & arms in circles by the side of his body, moaning we knew he was excited or frustrated by the intensity. We knew when his eyes squinted, his nose tuned up and laughed that he was happy. We knew when he rotated his head & his face turned red that he was anxious.

But that was not good enough for those who did not know Kyle’s communication system. It was not good enough when he needed to let someone know he needed to use the bathroom, he was hungry or he was thirsty. It was not good enough when he wanted to ride a bike or go for a swim & it was not good enough when he needed to let someone know he was tired.

So, the first communication strategy we tried was Total Communication (signing & talking). A list of the 10 to 20 most common requests that Kyle made throughout the day was created (eat, drink, bathroom) & everyone was trained in using these signs as well as Kyle. The pronoun I & the verb, want, were added, but Kyle often left them off unless prompted to use a whole sentence.

We used the same strategies with Lisa & Leslie (two other children on the quilt) & then we added picture identification, asking them to give us pictures we named. We asked them to choose a picture representing something they wanted. We asked them to place pictures on, next to objects & actions they represented. We wanted students to understand that every object & action had a corresponding referent they could use to request, demand or comment.

In Kyle, Leslie & Lisa’s room their dressers had pictures of items located in them, on the outside of the drawers so they could locate & also put away clothing (socks, underpants, t-shirts). Kitchen drawers and cupboards had pictures on them so they could unload the dishwasher & work on matching objects while they learned their corresponding visual name.

All these strategies help build communication comprehension & expression while building independent living skills.

Karen Kaplan
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