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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Using Video to Communicate with Non-Verbal Students

Guest blogger Katie Shepard is a special education teacher at AchieveKids* in Palo Alto, California.

AchieveKids is a school for special needs children with serious behavioral challenges. My class is for students 16 to 22 years old with serious communication and other developmental disabilities. We work on life and vocational skills in preparation for adult programs.

I spend most of my time focusing on student communication. My classroom is structured to develop good communication for all students throughout the day. We use a variety of communication systems like sign, TapToTalk, PECS, and other assistive devices. All the attention on student communication made me start to think more broadly about how I communicate with the students. I began to question if there is a better way for me to communicate with my non-verbal students.

One of the solutions I have found is to use video. I am encouraging my students to use pictures and devices to talk with me, so why not do the same with them? I have had great success making short videos using a Flip Video camera. The Flip Video camera is small enough to fit in a pocket, easy to use and inexpensive. It has been a great choice for our classroom. The videos are able to communicate so much more than spoken or written words. I use the videos to:
  • Model behavior and concepts to students
  • Reinforce good behavior
  • Track student progress (parents love this)
  • Document behaviors (parents love this)
  • Document fun events to build memories
  • Create video social stories
  • Train staff
For one student, I used the Flip Video to record him doing a good job getting on the school bus. This is a boy for whom getting on the bus was a major daily struggle. He now watches the video frequently to see himself exhibiting "good" behavior. He really loves seeing himself do it the "right" way. It's like a video social story!

Another student of mine makes slow progress on some of his IEP goals but has made huge strides in classroom behavior, following his schedule and accepting structure. I take videos of him to share with his parents and other members of the IEP team. The videos show the big picture of his progress and give so much more information about how he is doing than a written progress report.

The students love watching the videos and now I am experimenting with letting them make their own. I have been sharing the videos with parents and the IEP team. I am going to keep trying to find new uses for the videos and find ways to better communicate with my students.

*Phil Bookman, CEO of Assistyx, makers of TapToTalk, is board president at AchieveKids

If you have a TapToTalk idea or story you'd like us to share with other TapToTalk users, please email us at blog@taptotalk.com.

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