We have been working with a CWAS (communication and writing aides) team (SLP and OT) for a few months. They have gone into Sebastian’s school to evaluate him as well as worked with him in our home to decide on/try different ways to help him access communication. They’ve then been back to reevaluate him to see how the equipment they have loaned us is working in both the home and school setting. Their first visits to our home focussed on providing access for communication using switches, such as a Big Mac switch and a head switch in conjunction with picture cards and computer games/stories (more on this in a different post). Currently the team is coming once a week to do literacy/writing activities with Sebastian using eye gaze and smile confirmation using both a flip chart and a low tech device (more on this in another post).
At home we are integrating the Big Mac switch with a reading activity with Sebastian. We choose a few books with repetition, such as Eric Carle books. After Sebastian chooses the book he would like to read we record the repeated phrase into the switch. He sits in our lap or in the bean bag with the switch in his lap for easy reach. As we read the book, when we get to the phrase we tell Sebastian it’s his turn to read and he hits the switch. After a few times he doesn’t need prompting and can anticipate when it is his turn. This is a great early literacy activity. He can take part in the reading of the book and also learn the phrase just as verbal kids who re-read their favorite book learn to ‘read’ the words from memorization.
Here Sebastian is reading Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? with his papa-daddy.
Although I taught kids from kindergarten to grade 3 and did extensive work and research in literacy learning, I continue to learn about how I can teach my non-verbal son how to read. Introducing him to words and letters in different ways is just the beginning. We have always read with/to Sebastian, since he was in the womb. He has a very good understanding of the importance of books and has a love for reading with us. Even though he can’t pick up a book independently and leaf through the pages, we give him many opportunities to do this with us, as well as with other family members and friends. Every night he chooses which book we read at bed time. We hold two books in front of him and he takes some time to look at both and then reaches for the one he wants, smiling. Sebastian has favorite authors and books, just like his mama and papa-daddy. (I can do another post about favorite books/authors too.)
Learning how to read and ‘write’ will enable Sebastian to communicate his thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams. It will open up a world for him that many of us take for granted.