One aspect we needed to solve early on in our ALPS adventure was the physical setup.
In transitioning from working one on one to working in a group with Joey I was surprised at how Joey’s physical device itself interfered with connecting him with the whole group lessons.
Until now, I’ve only worked with Joey sitting next to him, when I can track his eyes on his screen and I know he’s thinking about what I asked or if he’s gone on to something else. Without knowing what he’s thinking it’s easier for me to over prompt or go on to the next student, thinking he is unengaged. The physical placement of his device stands between him and the front of the class, which means that unless we bring the object of our joint attention directly in front of him, he isn’t benefiting from observing his peers interact with the lesson. Unfortunately, the very item that gives Joey the ability to express himself with his peers creates a physical barrier between him and everyone else.
After talking through the problem we re-designed our learning space so that Joey can both access his device and have a clear view of the classroom. We moved Joey’s seat from up-front to a place to the side where it is easier to see both his screen and the group. This involved monitoring the lighting in the room so that he has a clear view of his screen without a glare. We propped up cardboard in the windows – anything to help his access.
We then designed our seating arrangements for group meetings. We want everyone at the same height so having the group on the floor while Joey sits in his chair does not work. Yet having everyone at a desk makes joint attention difficult and puts Joey further away from the discussion. We began having everyone move (taking their seats if they don’t want to stand) to an area closer to Joey. Now everyone has access to the daily message and group activities, and Joey is more aware of the other students’ responses.
Another aspect of physical problem solving we’ve also discussed is monitoring how many adults are supporting any given child in the moment. Although we all want to help Joey – adding adults next to a child immediately changes the community
that child experiences. Instead of being a part of the classroom community, the child transfers to having a community of them and the adults – with the peers on the outside. This is the opposite of what we want, and yet it is easy to find ourselves in the trap of having multiple helpers/teachers.
Of course, our problem solving is ongoing and we will continue to tweak and make changes as we go. Stay tuned to hear more about what we learn on our journey.