Each person is a unique individual with a different pair of eyes, hair and smile. Just like these physical attributes are different for each person, so is communication for people with special needs. People who are verbal communicate with words and those who are nonverbal communicate through vocalizations, sign language, body gestures, and facial expressions. Communication is key to understanding, connecting and reaching each other. Individuals with special needs deserve to reach out to others as do people without special needs. They deserve to have their own “voice” and expression as their peers. Educators and families of people with special needs can encourage communication through touch, gesture, words, pictures, photographs and use of objects. Through the power of communication, a person has autonomy and a better control in life. It also reduces frustration, aggravation and anger. Anger and frustration may lead to behaviors and aggression. We as educators and family members of people with special needs want to see their lives lived to the fullest. We can make a difference by seeing what is the best method of communication for the child/student to reduce frustration. There are many different levels of communication. It is up to the educator/parent/guardian to determine what that mode of communication is.
We can also help people with disabilities communicate to his/her best ability by learning about their disabilities and how it affects their communication. Some students with Down Syndrome maybe nonverbal and communicate through facial expressions, gestures, and sign language. For students who are nonverbal, sign language would be a skill to teach. Depending on the level of the student, using pictures or photographs to communicate needs and wants maybe communication too! Being familiar and knowing how a person receives his/her information can expand on the person’s possibilities of learning. Educators and families of the person with disabilities must respect, be patient and give their complete attention to the person with disabilities. Wait time is also very crucial for people with disabilities. Wait time is the time an educator or parent/guardian must wait for the individual to process or respond. Wait time could range from 10 seconds to more than a minute depending on the cognitive level of the person with disabilities. Encouraging communication is important. Be a motivator. One way to encourage communication is to have the individual make choices during meal times or answering questions. The number of choices would depend on the person’s cognitive level. If the individual with disabilities need help, have him/her show they need help by asking, signing, gesturing or pointing to a picture which indicates “help.”
Importance of Communication Assessment:
Everybody is there own person with different likes, dislikes, needs and preferences. Each person is a unique individual needing individualized instruction. With instruction comes learning which leads to communication. Communication is assessed based on the person’s disabilities and cognition. Communication includes an assortment of ways in which a person is connected to his/her environment. Educators/parents/ guardians have a responsibility to interact with the student/person with special needs and assess and observe how the person interacts with others. The response is critical to
his/her learning. It may not be easy to assess the way the student/child communicates. Patience and effort helps. Also, keep in mind where and with whom communication happens. It is important to see what the individual with disabilities CAN DO rather than what they CANNOT DO. An eye gaze or head shifting are signs of response or communication. Keep in mind that an individual with disabilities can be tired, medicated, sick or uncomfortable (in wheelchair or various types of equipment) that may affect the response or communication of an individual.Below are pictures of a student in my classroom responding to a story or a question I asked during Morning Circle. In the picture to the right, the student is reaching for a choice used during Circle Time. I asked her what the weather was. After we both looked out the window and saw that it was raining, she chose the card that indicated “rainy.” She is communicating by responding through reaching and pointing. The Smart board, iPad, light box and switches are assistive devices that also support communication in the classroom (pictured below).