I was finally able to “see” Joey through our on-line book club. We are meeting three times a week with a few other kindergarten students to read silly books and just immerse ourselves in the joy that silly books bring.
When Joey logged on for our initial session I felt tears well up in my eyes. Although I’d be missing him, I hadn’t realized just how much I had missed him. His giant smile radiated through the computer, and his laughter while we read the books was contagious.
Of course, the computer isn’t the same, and it feels so distant. Previously, I’ve written about how important wait time, and timing in general is when I am working with Joey. Wait time online feels even harder to do (particularly in a group of other active kindergarten students). Joey will look like he has something to say, and in person I can almost feel his intentionality and can tell that he is working hard to get out a message or that he is waiting on me to move on with our work. That’s harder on the computer, and I find myself not waiting long enough to allow him to fully get his ideas across.
Another drawback is also that Joey does not have access to his words during our group book time. Despite this, he looks fully engaged in the books almost the entire time, which says a lot when most of the kinders put their heads down and move around a bit before rejoining the group. Staying still in person is hard for any 5-6 year old, so keep in mind even our typically developing kiddos are having trouble with moving to the screen interactions.
I’ve tried to encourage Joey’s interactions by giving him two choices and asking him to choose which one. This is typically a communication strategy the team uses with Joey when he does not have access to any sort of AAC – assign one choice to each hand and let Joey choose. While doing this shows Joey that I care about his participation and want to hear his thoughts, it still limits him to just the two choices I originally give him, and relies on another adult to be there with him, putting their hands in front of him. I have to find another way.
I’d be interested to hear how AAC support is going virtually, especially as more and more teachers bring their class together for group virtual sessions. I hope to try some more interactive visuals today. This is one of those times that as teachers and communication partners we need to be gentle with ourselves, take risks to try out different options to increase engagement, be Ok if it doesn’t work, but also be attuned with our students. It isn’t about how creative we get – it’s about how we let them access interacting and communicating. Following their cues will take us where we need to go.
In the same situation? Share your ideas! What is working or not working for you!