This year I have a new class full of first graders and two new students who have never done participated in any sort of mainstreaming. I haven’t been put into a situation like this since my first year of teaching and I forgot how hard it is. Recently, I had our wonderful Buddy Class teacher tell me that some of the students don’t know how to communicate with all of my students successfully. Which fills my heart knowing that they want to form relationships with my students! But now I have to get creative on an Ability Awareness on how to communicate with students who are non-verbal.
However, this got me thinking about my coworkers. General Ed teachers are use to getting a verbal answer throughout the school day with their students and I remember when I first got to my school site G.E. teachers would tell me that they don’t think my students are gaining anything in their classroom because they just flap their hands and hum in the back of the room.
This Ability Awareness for our Buddy Class peers has now become an activity for EVERYONE!
An Ability Awareness activity will come soon to the blog, but first..
Here are some steps to take when communicating with a student who is non-verbal:
1. Don’t ask questions expecting to get an answer. It is more about talking to a person like they are a person, but going off of their facial expressions or behaviors instead.
What not to do: “Oh Hi! What’s your name? What do you like to do? Do you like sports? What kind?”
Instead try: “Hi Frankie! Looks like you’re in a good mood! Let’s play catch!” Then try to hand a ball to the student, prompt them to roll it back, ask the para or teacher around to help.
2. Don’t be offended if there is little to NO eye contact or you don’t feel like they are listening.
Students with disabilities see and hear SO MUCH more than you will ever know. The best way it was described to me for people with Autism is that they don’t have that part of the brain that cancels out the background noise. Or to put you in their shoes, imagine 5 people trying to tell you how to do 5 different tasks at once.
Once you say something to a student with a disability, give them a 5-10 seconds to respond or acknowledge you. Use less words. Repeat yourself after those seconds are up.
3. Don’t stop trying!
Please stop reading if you hate all human contact and having friends….
Exactly. No one wants to be alone, not apart of their community. Just because they didn’t respond to you the first time, doesn’t mean they hate you. Honestly, even if they smack you in the face, it doesn’t mean they hate you at all.. trust me.
Some of my students need to warm up to the idea of you. I act like that annoying girl in movies that always tries tagging along .. or Kimmy Gibler. Some of my students may have never even has a friend before. You need to give them time.
Bottom line. It’s my first day of break and I already miss watching my students mainstream.
Watch out for a new Ability Awareness!