First Week Challenges: Communicating with a Student that Cannot Talk

This year has had some major challenges- most involve new technology and loss of what I had access to last year.  The good new is I still have all my files...the bad news is we have lost most of our software access temporarily.  Although not related, I have no email contacts and cannot print.  Those will get fixed!!!

The one biggest challenge is I have a new student that does not communicate.  Transitions are extremely difficult, leaving the classroom is not fun, and by the end of the first day of school, I knew I had to do something.

Years ago, when I taught in a self-contained room, I used Boardmaker and my students that could not communicate would use their boards.  Remember, I said I don't have access to software...no Boardmaker (yet).  By Friday, I had made him some basic visual schedules to help with transitions and to help him know what was coming up.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to go to a new school, and not be able to communicate and not know what is going to happen next.  The day went so much better!!  I can tell he is used to using pictures, but on the first day we didn't know anything :(

I made these 5 boards to help us get started.
-Basic Communication Words (2 pages, 30 pictures)
-School Words (3 pages, 45 pictures)
-I'm Sick Words (1 page, 13 pictures) *This page was created after someone threw up on the first day.
-Self Help Words (1 page, 15 pictures)
-Toys (1 page, 15 pictures)

Since he is five, we are just focusing on handing the teacher/para pictures to express what he needs.  Using the pictures, he can communicate his needs, since he is unable to talk.  We can also help show him what to expect during the day.

This is how I have things organized and how we use the pictures.
1) I print the page twice.
2) One page goes in the binder and over each picture I place a velcro dot (rough side).  The binder pages and cards always have the rough side of velcro, and the pictures that students move have the softer side of velcro.  If you do this, the pictures will always stick (literally).

This is an example of a page that I put in the binder.  Row one has the actual picture the student will move placed on the matching picture.  Rows two and three have the velcro dots waiting for the matching picture.
When you don't have lots of pictures, this works well.  

I copy everything on card stock.  I've also seen file folders cut to 8.5x11 pages, and the card stock page glued on it, then laminated to make it even more durable.

These are some basic templates I set up.  I made:
I feel
I want
I need


These strips helps when there are two things being requested.

This board is for a step of four directions.

I also use strips to organize smaller parts of the day.  This strip was for lunch (the most difficult part of the day)!  At the bottom, I made a little holder that says DONE.   When activities are complete, the student puts them in the DONE folder.

The strips always have the rough velcro strips placed on them :)

This system has helped quite a bit.  I also have strips for the morning, recess, after recess, after lunch, and afternoon.  I'm hoping that this will make communicating easier for this student!

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