One way I communicate at school is with Communication cards I wear on a lanyard. These are cards that tell what I need or want by showing the teacher (or another person) a card. I usually don’t feel comfortable at the beginning of the year showing the teacher though because new teachers don’t feel safe to me. When the teacher doesn’t yet feel safe, I usually show the card to a friend and then they tell the teacher for me.
The communication needs of many Autistic children in the school environment can be better supported by having unrestricted accesses to communication supports, especially in the school environment and other environments where anxiety and overwhelm is common. Communication supports can support Autistic children who:
- have difficulty with expressive language or difficulties with verbal speech
- temporarily loose verbal speech ability when overwhelmed,
- have Selective Mutism (persistent inability to verbalize in select social settings, also known as ‘Situational Mutism’)
Communication supports can include access to low-tech, minimal cost options like spelling boards, communication cards and communication boards.
Every year, at the beginning of the year, I make a new set of communication cards based on my experience the year before of the most common things I need to communicate in the school context. I usually include cards for things like sensory needs, different ways I might need help with my work, personal needs, emotional needs and communicating if I am hurt.
When I was younger having an alphabet card was very helpful. This is because a thing teachers do a lot in spelling learning is giving students a random list of words and telling them to write the words in alphabetical order. This can be a processing and executive function nightmare for lots of Autistic kids because our brains are not as fluid in stopping and starting things.
When I am thinking or writing the alphabet and get interrupted at the letter ‘g’ my brain needs to start all over again at the letter ‘a’. This meant I would still be writing the fifth word when everyone else had already finished a list of 10 words, even though I am a very good speller. Having the alphabet in front of me means my brain gets lets overwhelmed by all the stopping and starting.
Having an alphabet card also means a kid has the opportunity to use it to spell out what they do not have a card for.
Sometimes though, communication cards can be a problem – when I am really anxious or wanting to communicate something quickly, sorting through the cards to find the one I need can impact communication.
I did a lot of thinking how to fix this problem this year and came up with a matching Desktop Communication Board. This will sit on my desk and has the most often used things I need to communicate. It has a space for writing too. When laminated the writing space is like a mini whiteboard!
I have colour-coded the Desktop Communication Board and the edge of my Communication Cards too into core words, core learning support needs and physical / emotional needs. This means it is easier for me to find the card I want!
If you think my Desktop Communication Board and Communication Card sets will help your kid at school too, you can download them at my ETSY store. I have sets for little kids and tween / teens.
Junior / Little kids: https://www.etsy.com/…/junior-desktop-communication-board
Tween /Teens: https://www.etsy.com/…/teen-tween-desktop-communication…