Last month we were delighted to participate in the Institute of Communication and Inclusion held in Columbia, Maryland. We presented to a great audience of people who are dedicated to serving nonspeaking and minimally speaking individuals. We got to collaborate with so many progressive thinkers and meet some of our inclusion super heroes, Cheryl Jorgeson and Paula Kluth! Our own Meghann Parkinson and skilled Atlanta practitioner, Kelsey Aughey joined me as we held daily skill building workshops for 20 plus spellers and their communication partners to help practice new skills. Since the focus of the conference was on inclusion, we decided to put our groups of subject matter experts to work!
One of our groups focused on typing skills. This group was challenged to come up with the ABC’s of inclusion! Each student, Philip, Mike, Camille and Matthew took turns writing a sentence for each letter with the keyboard held for them. After typing their sentence, each practiced typing one or more of the words independently. All made fantastic progress! Our friend, Philip Reyes, reported that this was one of his favorite parts of the conference and wrote about his experience in his blog, Faith, Hope, Love and Autism.
Actual inclusion opens doors.
Be patient with us.
Caring people make it successful.
Don’t give up.
Friends, need I say more?
Give us lots of patient encouragement.
Hear us when we spell.
In day, talking to friends opens my world.
Just like typically functioning,need support.
Keep believing in us.
Learn challenging subjects.
Must be proud.
No baby talk.
Open hearts please us.
Praise our achievements as they are yours as well.
Question your assumptions.
Remember we are just like you.
Spelling is our way out.
Treat us with respect.
Understand totally intelligent and eager to learn.
Voices must be heard.
Wait for us to finish our thoughts.
Xylophone can’t make open words and it still is in the orchestra.
You are needed for our success.
Zero tolerance for non believers.
One of our other groups was tasked with giving advising educators on inclusive practice. Not only did the come up with some great tips, they also collaborated on an acrostic poem!
Huan: INCLUSION IS LIKE ACCESSING ALL FACILITIES AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE. THERE IS A NEED FOR SPACE WHERE EVERYONE FEELS PROTECTED. CAN I SHARE MY SPACE WITH EVERYONE? YES. LEARNING TO SHARE MEANS KEEPING TALKERS ENGAGED IN MY TYPING.
Nadia: BE ALL CARING, DO NOT YELL
Harry: BE OPEN TO RECREATE INDIVIDUAL EXPERIENCES…SOME NEED CERTAIN ACCOMMODATION.
I think everyone should be included.
No one should miss each opportunity.
Children all deserve a good start.
Learn to share with all others.
See the intelligence underneath.
Instead of treating me like not smart, treat me like smart.
Obstacles may come, they make us stronger.
No child left behind!
Finally, we finished our third day of skill practice by creating a Pokemon Go inspired game to take our skills out in the community in our own game of Communication Go! The object was to “capture” (by snapping a picture) an introduction, a conversation, sensory aids, a story ~ any form of communication or comfort! The more you communicate, the more “experience points” you gain! We all had a blast meeting folks all over the conference center and loved sharing our finds!
Once again, we find our students are our very best educators! So inspired by their messages of inclusion and we can’t wait to put them into practice. Feel free to share their great tips for inclusion – just in time for back to school!
~Elizabeth, Meghann, Kelsey and our friends at the ICI