Uploaded:  8/14/2008

Author:  Randi Sargent

Communication Aids that Help Answer
"What Did You Do at School Today?"
by Randi Sargent

It's back to school for most of our kids and with it comes the uneasiness of not knowing what our special child did or accomplished during the day.  Even the most verbal of kids has trouble with reliable answers to our relentless questioning!  Using some low tech visual aids, even our children with limited verbal abilities can now answer the proverbial question, "what did you do at school today, honey?"  Here's how:

Devices such as Sequencers are great for sharing news between school and home, especially for helping your child initiate the conversation.  These devices are accessible to most children, even those with the most physical limitations.  The child hits the big button to play a series of pre-recorded messages from school or home.  Sequences can be set up by you or classroom staff so your child can tell a story or have a conversation.  An example is the Step-by-Step for under $200 from Ablenet.

A simple Talking Card can be enhanced to become a Weekend News Communicator. Press the button to record a message about an activity your child did at home or school, and let your child press the Play button to share the news with classmates at morning meeting or circle!  I've added a topic board to further guide the "conversation."  This can be purchased for about $10 from Say it with Symbols.


If you or your teachers have Boardmaker, you can create home/school communication journals customized to your child's school day.  Pre-made forms make it easy to communicate about your child on a daily basis.  Parent Laura Behrendt has published My PECS School to Home Communicator, a book designed to facilitate daily communication.  It includes pre-made pages with picture symbols to communicate with your child's teacher about classes, lunch, homework, mood, things needed at school and general comments.  It is available for $29 from her web site, www.autismshopper.com.


For more ideas on home/school communication, consider joining the Boardmaker listserv at Yahoo! Groups and browse the archives for sample journal/communication boards that parents, teachers and therapists have created.

Talking Photo Albums make an inexpensive and versatile communication aid.  Your child can share news about classroom activities, field trips or family vacations by pressing a button to play a pre-recorded message.  Simply slide 4x6 photos into the album pages and record a brief message narrating the picture.  All kids love to see pictures of themselves and sharing the photos is a great motivator to socialize and communicate!  Talking Photo Albums can also be used for teaching, social stories and more.  These are available widely for under $30, such as at Say it with Symbols.


For more information about using augmentative communication aids and practical visual supports like these, see the Learn section at Say It With Symbols.  This section offers a comprehensive listing of support groups, websites, catalogs, suppliers and more to help our kids communicate with symbols and visuals.

Randi Sargent and her husband are parents of a handsome 12-year-old son with cerebral palsy/multiple disabilities of unknown origin.  He uses assistive technology including visual aids throughout his day.  Randi is the founder of Giving Greetings and SayitiwthSymbols.com, a resource for parents and professionals who support children who communicate using symbols and visuals.  Her Symbolic Sentiments greeting cards and gifts feature Mayer-Johnson picture symbols that build awareness for children with communication challenges.  Randi can be reached at 1-866-544-9540 or rsargent@givinggreetings.com.