For the past four summers I have been employed as a Child Development Worker with the Manitoba Government's Children's disABILITY Services department. (If you would like to read more about it you can check out a post I wrote at the beginning of the summer).
One of my little guys has been with me on and off for 3 summers now and our main goal over the years has been communication. Larry* is currently still waiting for a full assessment of his specific disability but the doctors that he has seen have mentioned both Cerebral Palsy and Autism as a potential diagnosis. The nature of his disability has significantly affected his speech development such that he can vocalize sounds but has difficulty forming words. As a result, Larry's communication usually consists of grunts and a series of pointing. As you can imagine, it can sometimes be quite difficulty to understand Larry's needs, wants and ideas which is a consistent source of frustration for him.
To assist in communication the school has been incorporating American Sign Language (ASL) but it has been a slow process so far. I personally don't feel as though enough time is spent working on Larry's ASL program and he sometimes can have difficulty manipulating his fingers to form the signs (which may be connected to a possible Cerebral Palsy diagnosis). None-the-less, Larry and I have been working on ASL over the summers with some success. One thing I have noticed, however, is that Larry is often unable to understand that there is a connection between a specific sign and it's meaning. Often times Larry may not even see that I am making a sign to communicate and instead may be staring at my face or in a different direction completely!
Mirror". Larry hadn't been able to mirror my gestures regularly which perhaps has something to do with a possible diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum but since he seemed to LOVE watching our reflections in the windows he could now mirror my gestures perfectly! By using the window to highlight the signs I was forming, Larry and I were able to successfully review the signs for:
- Dog (puppy)
- Cat (kitty)
When teaching ASL I was already trying to get Larry to mirror my gestures but I hadn't thought of it in terms of a conscious learning strategy. When Larry began using my actual reflection, however, I was pleasantly surprised how a physical mirror could assist us in learning.
* Names have been changed for privacy.