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This website is dedicated to promoting inclusive schooling and exploring positive ways of supporting students with autism and other disabilities. Most of my work involves collaborating with schools to create environments, lessons, and experiences that are inclusive, respectful, and accessible for all learners.

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Communication opportunities everywhere

Posted on August 30, 2012 in Families, Literacy, News

So, all summer long I kept finding cool ideas for encouraging conversation and expression and I squirreled them all away to share them in one big blog post.

One of my favorites came to me via my wonderful friend, Kathy Fallin (educator extraordinaire). When I visited Charlotte, NC, she gave me some little notes from Hallmark to share with my daughters. The notes are called “Instant Messages” and the topics range from crushes to truth vs. dare to BFFs.

I thought they were genius not only to encourage connections between friends, but to inspire students who use augmentative or alternative communication. Imagine allowing a student with a disability to work on these notes during a writing center or during homeroom. A peer could help if necessary and both students could who to send their message to after they complete it.

Here are some of my favorites. Imagine your student or child having fun filling in the answers to this “pick the winners”. You could even use Boardmaker symbols as choices or photographs if you are not using a device.

Or how about this one featuring a student’s “faves”? This one helps students to get to know one another as well as provides them with an opportunity to communicate in a fun and novel way.

Ok, so now for the bad news. I don’t think you can get these tablets from Hallmark anymore, but my point is to look for fun and novel opportunities to inspire connections and communication practice.

This brings me to my second recommendation. While driving through Wisconsin this summer, we brought along this pack of conversation starters They make a road trip version, a teen version, a happiness version, and even a college version.

You don’t need the Table Topics brand, of course. You don’t even need formal cards; you can simple have students write questions or generate them yourself.

That brings me to one more game we rediscovered this summer. My daughter got a fun new Mad Libs tablet from a friend and we became instantly addicted to it during a long road trip.

If you have not played Mad Libs since childhood, you owe yourself a trip down memory lane. We had such a great time because everyone could play and no answer is better than another. The simplest answer can end up being the funniest punch line. For my younger daughter, this was a motivating way to practice spelling and reading new words and for my older daughter, this was a way to show off her knowledge of adverbs, adjectives, and pronouns.

Again, consider how much fun you could have playing Mad Libs with a diverse classroom group. Some students could be practicing parts of speech, others could be working on decoding, and still others may be using the game as an opportunity to practice typing or selecting words on an iPad, communication board, or device. Keep in mind that Mad Libs also has an app if you would rather access stories electronically.

How about you? Did you discover any neat communication ideas this summer? What games and activities do you plan to use this year to get kids excited about communication, connection, and expression?

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