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Spring 2005 Table of Contents
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Oh Yes You Can: How Creativity and Assistive Technology Helped My Child to Do Class Reports

By Yolonda Scarlett, Deafblind Family Leadership Participant, Coppell, Texas

Abstract: A parent describes how her son, who is nonverbal, has limited communication skills and is not able to write or type, did both oral and written reports for class projects.

Keywords: Blind, Deafblind Family Leadership Series, Assistive Technology, inclusion strategies

It is my hope that sharing and describing Isaiah’s participation in class reports will inspire and encourage other parents, teachers and education teams to either open the door or open the door wider for children with significant multiple impairments to participate in class projects and activities. I also think that is important to keep in mind, that a child with significant involvement will not gain the same knowledge or have the same experience as his or her general education peers from some projects and activities. However, creativity, assistive technology, modifications and collaboration between special education teams and parents can give children the opportunity to participate and be a part of many activities and projects that their peers are doing.

Creativity, assistive technology and modifications have given my son, Isaiah, the opportunity to participate in class projects this school year. Isaiah has done not one, but two oral reports and a written report. Isaiah is currently nine years old and in the 2nd grade. Isaiah spends the majority of his school day in a self-contained environment and he spends small blocks of time throughout the day in his 2nd grade general education class. Isaiah is deafblind with multiple disabilities and he has Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS). Isaiah is significantly challenged in every area of his development. He is nonverbal, he has limited communication skills and he can neither write nor type. I affectionately refer to Isaiah as “My Little Engine That Could!”

I vividly remember the day in January when I was reading the information from the 2nd grade homework assignment envelope. The class newsletter enclosed included information about a month long focus on weather and that the students would present a weather report in class. At the time, I was not even thinking about Isaiah and doing a weather report. I just thought that would be another assignment he wouldn’t be able to do. After reading the details about the report, I flipped to the next page that had the Weather Forecast Schedule—I was still not thinking about Isaiah and doing a weather report. I gasped and I believe my heart skipped a beat when I saw Isaiah’s name for Thursday, Jan 27th! After I recovered, determination superseded all my doubts and I was bound and determined somehow, someway that Isaiah would do a weather report. I didn’t know how, all I knew at this point was that on Jan. 27th, Isaiah Christian Scarlett would do a weather report in class!

Isaiah did do a modified weather report in class. Isaiah’s report started with a brief explanation to the class that Isaiah’s weather report would be an interactive report between Isaiah and his classmates and that throughout the report volunteers would be needed to read some information. Next Isaiah started his report by pushing the button of a Big Mack and a previously recorded message played, “Today’s Weather Report by Isaiah Scarlett.” Isaiah’s younger brother, Ervin who is in kindergarten, proudly recorded the message into the Big Mack. A Big Mack is a simple assistive technology device that allows one message to be recorded; each time the button of the Big Mack is pushed, the recorded message plays. For the next portion of the report six volunteer readers read the required elements for the weather report. For the required elements of the report my husband, Russell, cut a couple of poster boards into six strips and wrote some of the required information. For example one strip had the high and low temperatures for the day, another described the wind speed and direction, another had the forecast for tomorrow etc. Also, one of the poster board strips had written on it medium rain in the afternoon. For that Isaiah used some of his props to demonstrate rain. There was an umbrella next to Isaiah and Isaiah was holding a spray bottle filled with water and with some physical assistance Isaiah pushed the trigger of the spray bottle and water sprayed on the umbrella. Also, there was a requirement for suggestions for clothing to wear according to the next day’s weather forecast. When that poster strip was being read, Isaiah with assistance held up a jacket, raincoat and umbrella. To end the report, Isaiah, with assistance, pushed the button of the small cassette tape recorder and it played “The End” which was previously recorded by Isaiah’s brother, Ervin.

In February, Isaiah did both a written and oral report for his Famous American Project. Isaiah did his reports on George Washington Carver. Both reports were challenging, but the written report was more challenging. Since Isaiah is not able to write or type, I kept thinking if my husband or I wrote a report that wouldn’t be from Isaiah—it would be our writing getting graded. So, for Isaiah’s written report, he turned in an illustrated report about George Washington Carver. Isaiah participated in preparing the supporting materials for the report.

On the cover page of Isaiah’s illustrated report, Isaiah used different colors of paint to finger-paint George Washington Carver’s name. At the bottom of the page, Isaiah used his fingertips to make a multicolored design of dots. Isaiah required maximum to moderate physical assistance to finger-paint the letters in Mr. Carver’s name. At the top of the next page, a simple sentence was written: George Washington Carver was born in 1864 in the state of Missouri. With a pencil 1864 was written in large numbers and glue was placed over the numbers. The plan was for Isaiah to assist with squeezing the glue, but he had different plans and didn’t assist with that part. Isaiah did place gold sequins over the glue to make a shiny, gold 1864. Isaiah’s hand was guided into a bag that had the gold sequins and then his hand was guided to the area where 1864 was written. A piece of construction paper was cut into the shape of Missouri. Isaiah helped to pat the paper cutout of Missouri down on the paper. On the next page at the top “Young George loved plants” was written. Isaiah, with assistance, used green finger paint to make plants. For the next page construction paper cut into the shapes of Iowa and Alabama were used to illustrate where Mr. Carver went to college (Iowa) and where Mr. Carver lived after he graduated from college (Alabama). Isaiah patted the cutouts of the states on the paper and a simple sentence was written about what each state illustrated. For the remainder of the report different things (i.e. peanuts, sweet potatoes, etc.) were cut out of construction paper, Isaiah assisted with patting the cutouts on the different pages, and simple sentences were written about his illustrations on each page. The finished product of seven pages was really awesome and impressive; and best of all, Isaiah contributed to the finished product.

For Isaiah’s oral report, a written report that had a sentence for each of Isaiah’s classmates to read about Mr. Carver, his illustrated report and a sequencer were used. The written report was sent to his general education teacher the day before and the 2nd graders were enlisted to support Isaiah in his presentation. Also, that gave each student the opportunity to review his or her line prior to the actual report. A Sequencer is an assistive technology device that allows a series of messages to be recorded (messages up to 60 seconds in length). Each time the button is pushed the next recorded message plays. A Sequencer can be used for so many different things such as counting, ABC’s, naming classmates, phrases to a song, greeting conversation, etc. For Isaiah’s report his brother Ervin again proudly recorded the messages. First Ervin’s messages were recorded on a cassette tape recorder and then transferred to the Sequencer. Ervin was cued by, “1, 2, 3,” before he started to record each message—the cueing really helped when the recorded messages from the cassette tape were recorded into the Sequencer.

Isaiah’s oral report started by him pushing the sequencer and the message played that said, “George Washington Carver by Isaiah Scarlett.” Next when he pushed the button, the message said, “George Washington Carver was born in the state of Missouri.” The next message said, “Rachel next line please.” Then his classmate, Rachel, read her line from the written report. Isaiah continued to push the sequencer and a message would say another classmate’s name followed by next line please. Isaiah had a few lines scattered throughout the report. Also during the report, my husband, Russell, showed the pages of Isaiah’s illustrated report that represented the information that was being read from the written report. After the message played that said the end, Isaiah’s brother, Ervin, recorded a special message to Isaiah’s classmates that said, “Hi, this is Ervin. Thank you for helping my brother with his report.” Also, Ervin’s kindergarten teacher was kind enough to let Ervin go to Isaiah’s classroom so that he could watch Isaiah do his report as well as see how much his hard work of recording messages helped Isaiah to be able to do the report. On that day I was so proud of both of my sons!

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Last Revision: September 1, 2010