Using functional communication in speech therapy is something I strive for with my students who have severe and profound communication deficits. I have started doing speech therapy once a week during the regularly scheduled “snack time” in my Life Skills classroom. In that classroom, I have students in first through third grades who are non verbal or limited in their verbal skills. Using visual supports to encourage language, along with food, has proved to increase their communicative intent and the length of their phrases and requests.
This week we used cookie shaped cereal and a quick little communication placemat to work on requesting and answering questions.
I gave each student one of these placemats. With me in control of the cookies, they had to request by pointing or combining verbalizations with their pointing. After pointing to the phrase in order at the top of the page and verbalizing as best they could, I modeled (pointed to the picture) and asked them “How many cookies does Santa want?” They had to point to a number or say a number. At first I gave them the number they asked for and had them count out the cookies on the plate. After they got this down, I changed it up a little bit and did not give them the number they asked for. After they counted them out, they had to ask me for more cookies and figure out how many more they needed.
The students loved it! Of course there were a few moments where students were following me around trying to snatch the cookie box out of my hands. We just had them return to their chairs and modeled hand over hand the “more” symbol and then put the cookies on their “plate”.
It was a fun snack, but most of all it was purposeful.
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