Monday, August 31, 2015

Workshop ... Plus the Library? That's as Good as it Gets

It’s hard to stay ‘big picture’ when working with students with Complex Communication Needs.  All too often we pursue a series of small, quick fixes’ as opposed to planning long range systems that are building toward a ‘bigger something’.   Ideally we need to be putting in place logical, ‘big picture’ systems that ‘chip away’ at the challenge over time and achieve long lasting results by virtue of the relentless consistency with which these strategies are applied across activities. Whether we realize it or not, we’ve all signed up for the marathon … not the hundred yard dash.

The Animated Step-by-Steps Approach is definitely a marathon approach targeting pre-kindergarten through Grade four across a broad range of classroom activities: recipes, crafts, poems, songs, stories and science projects.  The implementation of a few Animated Step-by-Steps each week, e.g. a song or poem during circle time, a craft or recipe every Wednesday can go a long way toward reinforcing a teacher’s existing literacy, language and AAC agenda.

I’m excited about doing a workshop on the topic of Animated Step-by-Steps™ for the staff at the Imagine Academy for Autism located in Brooklyn New York. The Imagine Academy is a unique program that successfully integrates two commonly used approaches: Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and DIR®Floortime™.

To ensure the long-range success of their workshop investment, the school will be receiving a full library of symbol-supported Animated Step-by-Steps™. Over 70 titles thus far! That number is sufficient in variety to successfully ‘jump start’ implementation! With more titles being added weekly, the Imagine Academy for Autism is assured of offering their students a consistent long-range plan.

By design, the Animated Step-by-Steps™ are well suited for ‘playing to the strengths’ of children on the autism spectrum. Regardless of whether you are presenting a recipe, craft, poem, song, story or science project, the format is strikingly consistent across activities. For children on the spectrum ‘sameness’ is good … ‘sameness; with just enough variation to keep it interesting is even better as it helps nurture a willingness to accept change within an overall framework that feels familiar. In addition to ‘cutting across’ activities, the Animated Step-by-Steps™ allow educators to simultaneously ‘cut across’ several classroom agendas: literacy, receptive language, expressive language, English as a second language and of course last but not least Augmentative/Alternative Communication. Animated Step-by-Steps always provide simple text that is clearly supported with animated photos reflecting good figure-ground differential, realistic sound effects and the picture symbols that can help to familiarize students with the symbol set they need to master for successful communication. In addition, as mentioned in a previous post, there is a lot of incidental learning incorporated into the roster of titles: pattern prediction, counting, skip counting, addition, subtraction, fractions, multiplication, colors, clothing names, to list a few.

In addition to supporting a range of classroom activities, Animated Step-by-Steps™ can also accommodate a range of display options. An Animated Step-by-Step™ can be presented large on an interactive whiteboard (allowing teachers to capitalize on the use of the pen tools), or they can be displayed on a laptop for a smaller more intimate grouping of students on the spectrum. With the advent of the Microsoft PowerPoint app, they can also be presented on an iPad at a classroom activity center or can be used by a speech-language pathologist or occupational therapist to ‘prep’ a child in the therapy room for an upcoming group activity in the classroom!

The Animated Step-by-Steps ™ were designed to capitalize on the strengths of children with special needs, with children on the spectrum being no exception. Given the fact that the Imagine Academy likes to think ‘outside-the-box’, I’m looking forward to seeing ‘their therapeutic spin’ on using the existing library of Animated Step-by-Steps™ to nurture academic growth in their students.   

…’til the next post …  (new posts every Monday; become a follower)

© 2015 Carol Goossens’, Ph. D.
Augmentative Communication Consultant
Speech-Language Pathologist
Special Educator