Friday, June 20, 2014

C is for communication and conversation

Conversation & Communication.

These are two very important words in the world of teaching and more importantly in special education. How do you get a kiddo to converse and communicate when they have limited or no verbal skills? Let me start of by saying, the students will let you know when they want to communicate, typically it's something they want or need. They may show it through behavior or an attempt to verbalize or communication through pictures and sign language.  It's your job as an educator to expand their communication and conversation skills and topics beyond what they WANT to talk about and to whom they want to talk to.

Here is a little story about one of my most troublesome kiddos this year. My student is capable of communicating on his own, although he typically let his anger get the best of him and all communication and conversation opportunities would be thrown out of the window (literally). He threw things at the windows, tried to crawl out of the window, hurt himself and others, the list can go on. Through LOTS modifications, accommodations, different approaches and many restless nights trying to figure my student out, I remembered a tip an assistant gave me at the beginning of the year. She said to give this student five. This meant he could tell you 5 things. I could be anything he wanted.  The only issue I had with this was he just seemed to take FOREVER in telling me 5 things. Who has the time for that? I have data to collect, lessons to teach, meetings to attend and a classroom to run. Then I tried the 'give me 5.'

Yep, I tried it. Right in the middle of my student trying to jump of the stair case.  I said, "you know, I have no idea what's going on. I haven't heard your side of the story. I have a timer here and we've got 15 minutes, can you tell me 5 things.  It can be anything. I can be about why your mad, who your mad at, your dinner last night, your brother or even your favorite movie." Then he started talking. Before the end of the 15 minutes, he had told me 5 very detailed things AND we got to the bottom of why he was mad. I wasn't even expecting learn about the incident, but he felt independent in sharing his side of the story! This was also a good time to address the unacceptable 8th grade behavior and come to an agreement try to turn our day around. Every incident after this, I typically gave him wait time and told him, when you're ready to communicate with me, we can figure this out by talking. Then I would remind him, he can tell me any 5 things.  He would just start talking away! I sat quietly and listened.

This is just one kiddo and one incident. I'm not saying this will work on every student, but it might work on a few and hopefully save your sanity along the way.  I honestly don't think I could have figured this out without the help from the assistant and my fiance' reminding me that communication is VITAL for every person. Conversations need to happen in a variety of situations and scenarios and the students need to be able to discuss topics that aren't always of high interest to them personally.

A few other things I want to try for my students who struggle with communication & conversation:

This post is part of my summer series, "ABC's of a 1st year teacher." I hope you found today's post helpful & inspiring. Check back next week for the next letter, D! I'll be talking about Data & Documentation. 

Read more from this summer series! 

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