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Justin is a Mann Middle School student in the Hillsborough School District. He has minimal verbal language. For the last two years, Justin had been using a DynaMyte, an augmentative communication device that has digitized speech. Justin’s teacher, Terri McConomy, noticed that Justin did not use the DynaMyte for meaningful communication with other people; rather, he used it to key in his favorite characters and lines from cartoons and movies and repetitively listen to the device’s oral output of the lines entered. Thus, Ms. McConomy decided she would participate in the Partnership Project to assist in increasing Justin’s use of the DynaMyte for functional communication. Ms. McConomy chose two different class settings in which she set up lessons and activities that required Justin to use the DynaMyte to participate. Another strategy Ms. McConomy used was to “sabatoge” certain situations so that Justin would be forced to use his device. For example, she would set up an activity in which Justin was to participate but would neglect to provide all of the necessary components to complete the task Justin would be required to use his DynaMyte

to ask for the missing component. Finally, a reinforcement system was designed, and Justin earned stars for appropriately using his DynaMyte. The stars could be turned in for reinforcers or could be used to allow him to escape parts of tasks. After initiating the strategies, Justin quickly increased his use of the DynaMyte for appropriate communication. One of the highlights of the project occurred when Justin was playing one of his favorite games, “Bingo”, and he used the DynaMyte to announce that he had “Bingo”.

 

Visuals Improve Circle Time

Keeping Pre-Kindergarten students actively engaged while also creating an environment that reduces their problem behaviors is a challenging task. However, CARD support specialist Diane Wilson’s DOE Partner, V.E. teacher, Barbara Winkler, decided to do just that. After naming their CARD Partnership Project: Circle Time Activities That Promote Active Learning, Increased Engagement, and Reduction of Challenging Behaviors, they rolled up their sleeves and got to work. The specific goals for the Circle Time project were for students to: 1) exhibit fewer challenging behaviors, 2) learn to wait for their turn, 3) become more actively engaged, 4) participate in Circle Time activities and 5) enjoy themselves.

 

 

 

These materials included hand made big books, song and poem charts, finger plays, nursery rhymes and flannel board activities which incorporated the use of props and manipulative pieces which allowed the children to actively participate. As the project progressed, there were significant improvements during Circle Time. The students became actively engaged and participated with more enthusiasm and on task behavior. Turn taking, sharing, and the ability to wait increased, while the frequency of challenging behaviors decreased. Last but not least, both children and staff members appeared to really enjoy Circle Time. Many smiling faces could now be observed, as Circle Time became fun!

 
First, the physical environment was changed to include individual student mats attached to the carpet. A large daily picture schedule, easily visible to all the students, was placed in the front of the classroom. Additionally, a smaller “First-Then” schedule was put on the floor for the children to manipulate as they proceeded through the Circle Time activities. Another part of the project was to increase the number of visual supports used during Circle Time. These included social stories, choice boards, and cards prompting the students to sit, wait, and then take their turn. Finally, visually oriented, interactive teaching materials were developed to promote active learning during Circle Time.