Updated: Jun 30, 2021
For students with complex support needs, participating in routines and activities in the classroom is an important educational and social goal. With a little creativity and some simple adaptive devices, teachers can create numerous opportunities throughout the day for the student to have an active role in class activities. Here are 15 ways for students to actively participate using different types of technology.
Single-Message Communicators (e.g., BIGmack Communicator)
1. Greet people
2. Say the Pledge of Allegiance, mission statement, etc.
3. Read a sentence or passage (especially good for repetitive texts)
4. Give directions, transition warning, announcement, etc. to the class
5. Tell a peer to "turn the page" during partner or group reading
6. Use a sequenced communicator (e.g., Step-By-Step) to announce spelling words, tell a knock-knock joke, etc.
Multiple-Message Communicators (e.g., QuickTalker, GoTalk Communication Device, etc.)
7. Choose materials or activities (e.g., tell a partner what color to use for a picture, tell a lab group what substance to test next, etc.) 8. Choose a peer to work with or to have a turn 9. Read a poem or longer selection by pressing number buttons in order
Single switch with connection to computer or power adapter
10. Advance slides in a presentation on request 11. "Click" as directed to operate a computer program while peer partner moves the mouse and/or types 12. Turn lights, music, and other appliances on and off
Low-tech and No-tech options
13. Have pictures of the characters of a story or topic being discussed and hold them up as they are mentioned in the discussion or to answer a question 14. Draw cards, popsicle sticks, etc. to "call on" peers (a peer can read the name aloud) 15. Assist the teacher by holding up visuals, turning pages in a big book, etc.
Be creative. There’s no limit to the ways devices can be used to enhance participation and learning for students with intensive support needs. Never be afraid to try something new.
Use peers as a resource. Classmates are one of the best sources for ideas about how the student can participate and what vocabulary should be included on the device. Keep the messages age-appropriate and ask a peer to record the message.
Focus on participation, not assessment. Students with complex support needs can use single-message devices and other simple communication strategies to demonstrate what they know. However, this is not the only or most important use of these strategies. Giving the student a means to participate in lessons and group activities is equally critical. When the goal is to teach content and/or promote involvement, set the student up for success by providing only correct and appropriate responses on the device.
Teach choice making. Students who have not had many opportunities to make choices may not initially understand the connection between their actions (pushing a button or pointing to an object) and the outcome (receiving a particular item or activity). However, over time and with practice, virtually all students can learn to make choices. The most effective way to teach this skill is to treat choices as if they are purposeful. Experiencing the “consequence” of a non-desirable choice often encourages the student to focus on what they are selecting.
Kayla Kingston is the Communications Specialist for MCIE. A recent graduate of the University of Dayton, she loves reading, writing, and supporting all things inclusion.