Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Making Choices

Yesterday I received an email from a teacher in California, named Lisa.

In her email, Lisa shared that she teaches students who have special needs. She teaches children who present a wide variety of functioning levels and degrees.

Lisa emailed several questions in regards to working with children who are nonverbal. She asked for additional suggestions and/or tips to help encourage her students who are nonverbal to make choices and increase their participation.

One suggestion I had, was for Lisa to make a way for the students to choose instruments. The students can learn to make their choices known.

Lisa shared she usually hands out instruments to students based on what she has observed them to enjoy in previous instrument activities. This is okay to do, but it limits students trying out or experiencing something new/different after a period of time. Students gain confidence and independence when they can show/tell you what they want.

I shared pictures of instrument choice cards I use in sessions. I'm posting them here below.

I use these choice cards for all students in sessions. If a student is verbal, I show them the pictures (letting them pick from a field of 2 or 3 instruments), and ask them to tell me what they want. If a student is nonverbal, I hold up the picture cards (2 or 3) and ask them to tell me what they want. The student may use her hand to touch a picture card, eye gaze their choice,etc..

By using the cards for everyone, I'm letting the students who are verbal model choice making with the cards. This also encourages turn taking, waiting for turns, etc. as I make my way around the room to each student. (Of course, there are songs where everyone plays a maraca or stick, and in that situation we hand out instruments to each student.)

What other ways do you encourage students who are nonverbal to communicate?

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