ruehl asks:

How do you communicate to a student creatively,who does not speak, without using American sign Language?

I am looking for creative ways to communicate to a student who is developmental delayed without using American Sign Language. He does understand when I ask him to preform simple tasks, such as, "put the book on the shelf." I am seeking ways on how to creatively ask questions (emotions) like, "how do you feel today? Are you happy? Did you like what you ate?"
In Topics: Special needs
> 60 days ago



Hand in Hand
Mar 31, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Dear Ruehl:

Good question! Let me see if I can help with an idea or two--it's such a special thing to offer caring to a child with developmental delays. Makes you think outside the box, and that stretches you in good ways, for sure.

I think that the language of play is the language you'd want to use. Often, children with developmental delays have kind of given up on people being playful with them--everyone is seriously trying to do well by them, and in all that seriousness, the easiest way to communicate is left behind. Play requires no words, just an expectant look, lots of eye contact, affectionate touch, and a little imagination.

I would begin with that child by paying warm attention, offering lots of eye contact, and just being there, saying that you're glad to see them. Then a moment of silence. Then, this will be a sweet time together. Then a moment of silence. Let the child have time to come up with responses, or no response. This tells you a lot about whether the child is far far away, or close by and expectant. It sets the time together off with time for the child to take initiative, before you do.

Then, try to get a bit of play going between you. A child will communicate how they're feeling today as you start to try to play: if they're feeling distant or discouraged, they won't be able to look you in the eye. They will just sit there and look disinterested as you endeavor to play peek a boo, or to wrestle them gently, or to toss them a ball or a small pillow, or to nuzzle the top of your head into their belly. But try one or all of these opening gambits, and don't stop. Put the child on your tummy while you lie on your back, and give them a gentle bump, or put them on your back and trot around, stopping to see a tree or a cupboard or a picture on the wall. As you trot, bump into something, as if you hadn't seen it, and make a funny noise.

When you're developmentally delayed, you are always, always around people who are more competent than you. So you being goofy and "incompetent" at something like walking or putting an apple in your mouth (open your mouth wide, and make the apple go to your ear or your eye, then look surprised and try hard--and fail--again--clown a little here!) will probably get a little chuckle going. Laughter is a powerful connector. Once you can get a child laughing a bit, keep working at that. Laughter also wakes up the intelligence that's there, gets a child feeling hopeful and engaged again. It may not look like you're promoting learning, but laughter really helps children muster the hope they have to have to try new things in the face of possible failure.

Use your eyes, don't ask too many questions. Just connect. Connect, play, and let the child lead you toward what he or she is interested in. If a child begins to cry, listen. The crying will help the child offload frustration, or sadness, and it will clear his or her mind well if you stay, don't say too much, and offer your caring. "I see, this is hard for you. I'll stay with you until you feel better." or "I know you don't want to do this lesson. Keep showing me how it is for you. I'll listen." Say things that show that you want to connect, want to understand.

The less worried you look (and are) around this child, the more he or she will be able to show you without words what's going on inside. It may be emotional, but if they're showing you, good things are happening. Progress will be made. The connection between someone who will listen, and someone who feels badly and can show it, is a powerful agent for change, a powerful release for the intelligence this child has, the part that's covered by discouragement and distance from others. The child may never overcome the delay, but if he or she can overcome the heavy feelings on top of that delay, they'll make good progress toward reaching their potential.

There's more about how to connect with children at the website below. If you have some success you're pleased with, please write us! We'd love to hear from you.

Patty Wipfler

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Additional Answers (1)

ilovechefwi... , Teacher, Caregiver writes:
I teach children with autism and many are non verbal or little verbal skills.  We use a ton of picture symbols in my classroom.  PECS is a great program to work on communicating.  It starts out simple with recognizing pictures and then continues to wants.  Eventually you can ask the child "what do you see" and they can answer using pictures.  PECS are also used in many augmentative communication devices.

I am including my youtube page, because there are several sources of how I organize and use things in my classroom.

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