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Inclusion At Its Best

A "trade fair" was a year end social studies project for the two combined 5th grade classes for which Ashley was a member. Students were given many weeks notice to produce a product which they could then trade with fellow classmates.

Ashley strung bead necklaces. And for the first time ever, Ashley chose to string the beads in patterns, alternating various colors! As one of her teachers suggested, "It was finally something she wanted to do because it had real meaning to her."

I configured a back board using a black corrugated board typically used for science fair exhibits. Black was used to provide high contrast to compensate for Ashley's visual impairment. The title of "Ashley's Bead Store" was produced by computer and then cut out. Ashley helped apply the glue and the title was affixed to the back board. Ashley's computer generated vector drawn icon was printed, cut out, and added to the back board. Small cup hooks were screwed into the back board to hold the bead necklaces.

As an added touch, I produced a t-shirt with matching logo utilizing the computer. I laid out the image using a computer graphics program with the same text and images as the back board. Then using a special iron on transfer paper for color ink jet printers, I printed it out and ironed it onto a plain white t-shirt.

Once at school, Ashley set up shop, hanging her bead necklaces onto the cup hooks on the back board. Ashley produced special bead necklaces for her closest friends with special messages spelled out with beads of the signed alphabet. Those necklaces were placed on a separate cup hook identified with a Boardmaker icon for "friends."

Using Augmentative Communication

Using Mayer-Johnson's Speaking Dynamically and a Macintosh PowerBook, Ashley got her augmentative communication device ready to communicate with her classmates. The Speaking Dynamically "board" was first designed by the school speech language pathologist and then sent home for editing to assure that the board content corresponded to Ashley's project. The board was rather simple and included a message display which types the message embedded in each of the four buttons. The button in the lower left hand corner clears the contents of the message display when selected.

Open For Business

Ashley's participation was a great success! She came home with many coveted items produced by classmates, including a bookmark and a bead lizard (her favorite). Teachers reported Ashley explored the products of over 40 classmates and was very particular about what she would and would not trade for. Like her classmates, she was a discriminating shopper looking for good value!

The Speaking Dynamically board looked like this
Ashley is open for business with her closest friends, (l to ri) Cecilia, Tara, and Janet, as her first customers.

Talent Show

A permission slip was sent home from school for the fifth grade year end talent show but Ashley's participation was hard to imagine until her closest friends called to indicate that they would like Ashley to join them in their musical performance.

We talked with Ashley's friends about how she could participate. While she could not sing the words to their song, she could learn the hand motions and introduce their group using augmentative communication (in this case, a Speak Easy by AbleNet). This is the simple augmentative communication device Ashley normally uses for portability. One selection was changed for the performance to introduce "three cowgirls and a horse" with a recorded message under a Boardmaker icon of a cowboy.

Her classmates came home after school with Ashley on two occasions to practice their song. The second practice was followed by a dinner of hamburgers and ice cream at a local restaurant. Ashley's friend, Tara, learned how to eat a hamburger with only one hand since Ashley didn't want to let go of the other! We all laughed. What fun!

The performance was a great success. Although they were not chosen the winners of the talent show, they were all winners that day at how to successfully include a friend in a very memorable experience

Tara, Ashley, Janet, and Cecilia (l to r) after a great performance

Current Event

An assignment came home from Ashley's 6th grade social studies class as follows:

Current Event

1. Cut an article out of the newspaper. Needs to be about or take place in another country.
2. Highlight main idea.
3. Write a summary of the article in your own words (1-2 paragraphs in length).
4. Present the article to the class.

It was suggested that it could be adjusted "as you think best fits Ashley."

Phew!! This one was a toughie but rather than focus on the parts of the assignment Ashley could not do, we instead focused on the parts that she could. This is what I designed:

a. I picked an article about Keiko the killer whale being moved to Iceland. This would be more meaningful to Ashley than unrest in the Middle East or a new prime minister in Russia since she has seen the movie "Free Willy" and has visited Sea World a number of times where she has seen killer whales.

b. I talked to Ashley about the article and I wrote a simple 2 sentence summary in dashed text using School Fonts for Beginning Writing. Ashley traced over the text.

c. I designed a globe with available clip art and added the path of the airplane from Oregon to Iceland, and an icon of Ashley in the approximate location of Oklahoma. Ashley affixed an icon of an airplane in the appropriate location, traced over the dashed path of the flight to Iceland, and traced over the dashed text and dashed outline of the killer whale.
A partial view of the finished image

d. A description of the article was programmed on her augmentative communication device for her presentation to the class. Ashley glued her map, newspaper article, and traced sentences to a small poster board to show her class.

Thank goodness for Keiko moving that week!

The presentation to the class was accomplished and the staff indicated it went wonderfully. Teachers were impressed that the 6th graders spontaneously applauded after Ashley completed her presentation, as they should for all their classmates but often forget. One student asked Ashley what was on the back of her poster board and she spontaneously turned it over to show him the rest of her project. Good job, Ashley!

Castles & Kings

A recent 6th grade interdisciplinary study of the medieval period culminated in a special performance for parents and family. Many students appeared in period costumes and presented original plays and skits. Ashley and her friend Chelsea began the ceremony by presenting the title banner, "Castles, Kings, and Medieval Things," which was made by team teacher Mrs. Walter and Ashley.

Medieval Clothing Report

As part of the unit, students were assigned to do a report. Medieval clothing was chosen for Ashley. To help her understand how different the clothing was of this period, I ordered a set of paper dolls from (Medieval Costumes Paper Dolls by Tom Tierney, ISBN: 0-486-28925-7). I cut out the paper dolls and outfits, laminated them, and added Velcro coins to the clothing and paper dolls so that Ashley could interchange the outfits. This was an activity she shared with her speech language pathologist, and other educational personnel at school which provided Ashley a lot of language opportunities. I had designed a similar activity in 5th grade for colonial clothing using American Girl paper dolls. While we did not go back to compare and contrast the two, this might have been a fun thing to do and could have easily been accomplished.

To deliver her report on medieval clothing to her 6th grade social studies class, I designed an IntelliPics activity with a custom overlay. The IntelliPics activity was designed so that when Ashley selected an item of clothing from the overlay using IntelliKeys, the clothing was named and an image appeared showing that particular piece of clothing on a knight.

The images of the clothing were scanned from another book of "paper dolls" (Cut and Make a Knight in Armor by A. G. Smith, ISBN: 0-486-27533-7). They were cropped, copied, and pasted into the IntelliPics activity. I used this paper doll book for the images rather than the previous paper doll book because items of clothing were individually presented rather than as an entire outfit.

Ashley presented this as an "oral" report to her entire class. I attended the class with the IntelliKeys and overlay, a laptop, and the IntelliPics activity loaded and ready to go. Once she had completed the presentation, classmates were chosen to come forward to try it out for themselves by making selections from the overlay. The teacher commented in Ashley's report evaluation: "It displayed excellent information that captivated the classmates' attention. They wanted to see it several times over."

It captivated Ashley's attention, too! A+, Ashley!!

Custom IntelliKeys overlay

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Bio Poem

It's a new school year and the 7th grade language arts class created "bio poems" to introduce themselves to the class. The poem looks like this:

Line 1: Your first name only
Line 2: Four traits that describe you
Line 3: "Sibling of (son or daughter of)"
Line 4: "Lover of (3 people or ideas)"
Line 5: "Who feels (3 items)"
Line 6: "Who needs (3 items)"
Line 7: "Who gives (3 items)"
Line 8: "Who fears (3 items)"
Line 9: "Who would like to see (3 items)"
Line 10: "Resident of (your city and state)"
Line 11: Your last name only

Ashley's portable communication device (a Tech/Speak) was programmed for her to "say" her poem:

Happy, loving, fun, good friend.
Daughter of Hal and Kim.
Lover of Mom and Dad, Megan and Wendy.
Who feels proud, excitement, and frustration.
Who needs help, love, and understanding.
Who gives help, kindness, and love.
Who fears not being understood, being lost, or sick.
Who would like to see every Taco Bell, a good movie, and lots of trips.
Resident of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Ashley wasn't quite ready to stand up in front of the class so her teacher had her deliver her poem from her desk. I am told she did a great job and that classmates snapped their fingers with approval (the classroom substitute for clapping). Good job, Ashley!

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