Communication matters!

April 06, 2021

4.6.2021 Building Communication Skills every day!

The school year seems to be flying, and here we are already in April. Since September, all of our students here have grown in countless ways. When we talk about communication, it is something that is worked on with every student according to the child’s individual needs. While communication skills are addressed in every single classroom all day long, they are largely targeted by our speech-language therapists. We do have another blog spot to check out some more of their work, but for today, we will be talking about the way that our students are using iPads to learn to communicate and to communicate.

To back up a bit, it’s important to know that most of the kiddos come to us without words or any method to communicate outside of behaviors. For example, a child might run to something to show his interest in it, or cry to show she’s upset. These behavior are certainly a form of communication but to develop a richer and deeper sense of understanding between self and others, it’s important that people can share their thoughts and feelings in a way that other people can comprehend. 

The start of this is typically learning to use P.E.C.S. , or the Picture Exchange Communication System.   In a nutshell, the child learns to recognize a picture has the meaning of the object that it represents, and eventually to hand a picture of an item to another person in order to request the item. Later, the child builds on wants and needs with phrases, sentences, beyond mere requests to other forms of interacting. Verbal language is always paired with this process and the child is continually encouraged to make sounds and use the voice. There are stages to P.E.C.S. and the process is long, but the therapists are relentless and so are the teaching team members in the classrooms.

Eventually, the P.E.C.S. book can be traded in for an iPad, and a communication app (we love Prologue2go here but there are several) where there are picture symbols instead of concrete pictures, and the child touches buttons that speak for her. Again, this process is not a quick fix but a lifelong tool which the child can rely on for his whole lifetime, and one that is always paired with verbal language, something that other people will always be able to understand. It’s a wonderful thing to see a child using words to communicate, without tears and without the frustration of not being understood. That’s probably part of the reason that speech-language therapists love what they do so much, seeing the success that they’ve grown through their work.

Here we have a few images of sessions with students working hard in speech sessions, some with devices, others working on different aspects of communication. We hope you will love them too. 

8.3.2020 Communication skills on the go!

Today, Room 8 had a scavenger hunt! They were incorporating a custom from a cultural holiday that a student in the room celebrates, and simultaneously working on social and communication skills. Students practiced knocking on doors of school administrators, using verbal or adaptive communication to interact with the person in the office, and were given a reinforcer at the end of each interaction. Taking turns and waiting for others in the group were also part of the exercise, as was the physical activity involved with a long hike through the building and upstairs to the offices.

12.30.2019  It’s December break, but just before the vacation, Ms. Ria, a Speech-Language therapist at Crossroads Center for Children was working with two students. All three were pleased to smile for the camera briefly, before returning to their focus on important communication concepts.

It might look as though these lads are just playing and having fun.

Well, truth be told, they were totally having a great time. However, simultaneously they were working on some skills that will help them – in their classrooms, with their families, in their future schools, and in life at large. And that’s what the important part is.

The kinds of skills that children can develop with their therapists are infinite. They might be working on making sounds, using P.E.C.S. or other communication systems, how to communicate needs and wants in functional ways, or communication of concepts, to name a few.

To boot, the settings for sessions can take many forms. Sometimes therapists work students in a one-to-one setting, while other students work on skills in a group, together with a peer. There are sessions scheduled right in the classroom, while others happen in locations with lowered distractions, such as the school library as an example.

So, while one pair of students might use toys (to their delight) to address concepts such as in and on,  front and back, next to and between, another student might be learning to point to pictures in order to show her therapist nose or eyes. Another child yet is learning to type on a communication device to say, “I want juice | water | goldfish | sandwich …..” in preparation for being able to tell his family what he wants and needs.

And, while two young boys are learning to take turns, share items, and say “good game,” another is learning to say, “head” and “arm” in preparation for being able to communicate to someone when she is sick or injured.

Expressing what we have in our minds is a major foundation for learning other skills and behaviors. Ideas are shared through communication. Social interactions are shared through communication. Literacy, Sciences, Mathematics… Essentially all learning relies on communication of some sort.

Not all, but many of our children come to us with limited verbal skills. Some students have no words at all,  while others have many words but need help to understand which words mean which objects, places and people, and so on. Speech-Language therapists use their expertise to teach everything from sounds and words to phrases and sentences, all in the mission of helping their students learn to communicate to their best abilities.

Thanks so much to all Speech-Language therapists out there, but especially to those at Crossroads Center for Children, for the essential work with students to help them prepare for successful lives.  And for making it so much fun for the kids, no less!

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