Motivators: COMPUTER TIME, SESAME STREET CHARACTERS, HUMOR, SENSE OF CONTROL
Strategy: Use favorite videos as a springboard to engage in one-on-one reciprocal communication.
Erika is drawn to the Sesame Street© videos (available online at youtube.com and SesameStreet.org) for a variety of reasons. She loves the characters, the humor, the topics and the conversation. When an adult shares in this experience with her, she connects with that person almost as if the experience itself is a conversation. Show her that you appreciate the humor by sharing in it with her, and you will find an instant bond. By giving her most of the control (of the mouse), she will eventually find something that is of great interest to her, and she may even pause the video to watch a short sequence multiple times. When she watches something over and over, this is a remarkable opportunity to discuss whatever is on the screen. She is already engaged, and the adult will find a high level of engagement by asking questions about it and requiring her to respond. Make appropriate comments, and Erika will follow suit. Use the topic and expand on it later. Erika has an uncanny ability to recall the details of these videos at a later time. If something is particularly interesting, you can refer to it later in the day, and still expect her to be able to answer questions about it.
While giving her some time alone on the computer (as a reward, or during a break time) can be a good thing, when you put headphones on her, you are putting her into her own world and missing out on a potentially magical social opportunity.
Motivators: COMPUTER TIME, SESAME STREET CHARACTERS, HUMOR, SENSE OF CONTROL
Strategy: Use Mr. Noodle videos to work on "WH" questions
"Welcome to Elmo's World. Elmo's so happy to see you, and so is Dorothy."
As irritating as it may be to hear these words for the thousandth time, I have come to realize that there must be something about the predictable format of the "Elmo's World" segments which appeals to Erika. I have also come to appreciate the silent-but-silly character, Mr. Noodle. Apparently, Erika can relate to this guy. As he demonstrates the simplest of tasks (answering the phone/ brushing his teeth/ wrapping a present) in the silliest way possible, the voices that you hear are of kids rooting him on and explaining, "No, that's not the way you do it, Mr. Noodle! You have to put the toothpaste ON the TOOTHBRUSH!" And guess who joins in?
That's right. Sometimes it's echolalic, repeating what one of the kids is saying. But she is right there in the conversation between these kids and Mr. Noodle, and she will direct Mr. Noodle herself as well. The conversation comes because she is caught up in the silliness. The beauty of it, of course, is that the Mr. Noodle segments always start off with Elmo asking, "How do YOU do ______, Mr. Noodle?" As silliness ensues, this is a great time for "WH" questions, surrounding the task he is demonstrating:
During other parts of Elmo's World, children often demonstrate the answer to Elmo's question (ex: "How do you get dressed?"). Erika often finds these very interesting, as well. The children are answering the question as they demonstrate. Let her watch it, then pause it and ask, "How did he get dressed?" "What about her?" "How did he get dressed?" "What is he going to put on before he goes outside?" etc.
Motivator: Computer time
Strength: Reading words from sight memory
Strategy: Use the computer keyboard instead of handwriting for all spelling and writing-related work
If you allow her to demonstrate her knowledge of words in a way that she is able to practice over and over, she will be empowered and will be able to increase the complexity of her reading and writing vocabulary. Do not penalize her ability to move forward with reading and writing because of her inability to write the words by hand. A teacher would never think of penalizing a child whose physical handicap kept them from writing the words by hand, so I expect that Erika, too, will be empowered to write on the computer.
Motivators: Sesame Street© Video + audio + interaction, Singing
Strengths: Reading words from sight memory, Remembering song lyrics, Learning through repetition
Strategy: Use the videos of songs that she sings as a teaching tool. Use symbols with lyrics to help her learn the written words.
Since she knows the lyrics already, those lyrics should be used as a tool to help her learn the written words. Give her the words. Write the lyrics for her with Writing with Symbols© software. She will sight-memorize the words, and she will gain a better understanding of their meaning through the use of the symbols.
For example, in the Sesame Street©song "We Are All Earthlings," Erika sings the verses: "Some of us have feathers/ Some of us have fins/ Some of us are furry/ And some of us have grins." While she sings the word "grins," I am certain that she does not know its meaning. Its meaning, however, is easily conveyed with a symbol accompanying the text. This strategy reinforces the word that she already uses (its pronunciation, spelling, and its meaning).
We have observed Erika's ability to sight-memorize words from a very young age, through the Signing Time© video series. From around age two, Erika could recognize the words used in the video series that she watched regularly. The multisensory approach is very effective in helping her to memorize the spelling and understand the meaning of the words.
I have prepared some lyrics to some of her favorite songs using the Writing with Symbols© software.
Motivator: Seeks "completion" and filling in negative space
Strategy: Continue to use worksheet strategies which are cut and paste/ fill-in-the-grid
The following PDF documents demonstrate a format which is appealing to Erika, as well as effective for learning the material. There may be other applications where this would be useful. Can the subject matter be taught by breaking it down into pieces, and assembling the pieces like a puzzle? This may be applicable for other areas of the curriculum, including, but not limited to, science lessons.
Motivator: Computer time, Visual + Audio + Interaction
Strength: Learns through Repetition
Strategy: Use assistive technology to leverage Erika's echolalic tendencies. Turn this weakness into a strength by giving her appropriate responses and scripts.
Erika speaks in limited scripts, with a huge echolalic influence. In other words, she repeats what she hears, and she may eventually use something that she repeats as a script. Her scripts have proven to be among her most powerful communication strategies. By using assistive technology, we can give her a visual with audio and help her to make appropriate statements. The Proloquo2Go app on the iPad is ideal for giving her choices and customizing responses.
This should be a primary focus of her education right now, in my opinion. There is a tremendous opportunity to increase her functional scripts. We have seen that she can take a simple script and incorporate that script into everyday language. For example, she uses the script, "I want _____." By giving her access to more functional scripts, with repetition and practice, we are actually increasing her ability to communicate spontaneously. The impact of increasing her functional scripts cannot be understated. Certainly, with an increased ability to communicate, she will be able to communicate her needs and fears, she will be less frustrated and agitated, and she will be able to communicate and learn more complex and abstract concepts.
I believe that it is quite pointless to use this technology to have the iPad dictate phrases that she already verbalizes appropriately. What is the point of having her say, "Good morning" on the iPad, when she already says this on her own? Let's come up with some more meaningful strategies. This needs to be taken much more seriously than it is currently.