The town where I live has a number of statues in front of and around public buildings.  They depict people mostly but one of them is a statue of a bear lying on its back.  It stands (or lies, more accurately) in front of our park district’s main building.  This particular statue sparked my interest because of the consistent reaction children have when they see it.  Child after child approaches the bear and rests his or her hand on its head, grabs its hand then sits on it.  This is true of toddlers to kids in early elementary school.  Rarely does a child walk by without approaching the bear unless being pulled by his or her parent into the building or back to the car. (I’ve even seen older children and adults eyeing the bear.  I have a feeling that if they weren’t so “cool” or “mature” they would be touching and sitting on the bear as well.) When these children think about the park district building, what picture do you suppose pops into their minds?  Probably the bear!

What bearing (insert groaning and head shaking here) does this have on AAC in the classroom?

There are times when we as adults become so task-oriented that we miss what is important to the child.  This is especially true when we are adding stories and news to devices.

I remember a trip to New York City with my Girl Scout troop.  We saw so many wonderful and interesting things including the Empire State Building, Central Park and the Museum of Natural History. We also toured backstage at Radio City Music Hall and attended the Radio City Christmas Show!  What did my fellow Scouts and I tell our families about when we got home?  The men in the dining car on the train who were singing, “You are My Sunshine”, loudly and off-key throughout much of the return trip.  I must say that this was very disappointing to my mother (our troop leader) who was hoping that the trip had some more significant impact.  If I had a communication device, I can guarantee you that the men singing, “You are My Sunshine”, would not have been programmed into my news page.

When we customize a student’s device with stories or news, let’s consider what they find interesting.  How do we do that?

  • Ask them.  They may be able to tell us using their devices, gestures or even eye gaze.
  • Pay attention.  Notice what makes them excited, angry or pay increased attention.
  • Watch or ask other students.  Listen to what other students are talking about or ask what news they plan to share when they get home.
  • Tap into your inner child.  Ask yourself, “When I was ___ years old, what would I have found worthy of talking about today?”

Let’s bear in mind (sorry!), that the communication device should reflect the user primarily, not the programmer.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *