Title: "Speak Up at School" - A project to support and develop Language Development with moderately disabled Special Needs pupils.

Subject Area: Language Development

Specific Topics: Naming and greeting classmates. Identifying and naming key staff members. The concept of Time and it's relation to events during the day.

Goals of the Project:
· To be able to say all classmates names
· To greet them in an appropriate manner either through speech or sign language /Lámh
· To identify, name, and locate key staff members
· To specify, either through speech or Lámh the function of that person within the school.
· To be able, either through speech or Lámh to link events during the school day with specific times.
These objectives tie in with the special needs curriculum (Moderate) for this age group in the areas of receptive and expressive language skills. They also concur with the curriculum areas of social and personal development in helping the pupils to greet people appropriately. There are links with the "Stay Safe" programme in the pupils' identification and naming of key staff members. Mobility Skills are addressed through visits or taking messages to staff members. Social maths skills are addressed in linking time with events during the day.

Display of the Project: This project is displayed on the computer using the authoring package "Hyperstudio". Use of a touch screen enables the less able to navigate the screens with ease. There is also be hard copy in booklet form for "reading" with the pupils. Graphics from the project are displayed on the classroom wall to reinforce language acquisition.

Requirements: The pupils need to be able to sit for at least a thirty-second period and look at the computer screen. The teacher decides on the content but must endeavour to tailor the content to the language needs of the target group The teacher needs to be familiar with the authoring package "Hyperstudio" and be able to use a Digital Camera and Scanner.

Management: Language work was ongoing in the classroom. The assistance of the speech therapist was invaluable in guiding the teacher towards appropriate language content. Pictures of the pupils were taken during language sessions and appropriate Lámh signs were taught. These pictures were inserted into the "Hyperstudio" programme and the teacher/ childcare assistant added the appropriate language to the screen. The pupils were encouraged to speak with the screens. The teacher/ childcare assistant modelled a response, e.g. "Hello Mary". The pupils were able to navigate the programme and activate the sound with ease. This project was built upon gradually. New content was added as and when the pupils had mastered a section or were at least comfortable with it. The second section involved taking digital pictures of events during the day and adding the appropriate title and time to the screen. The teacher involved completed a "Hyperstudio" course and tutored the childcare assistant in its use. The pupils were only required to navigate and speak along with the screens.

Evaluation: Out of a class group of seven pupils six children spoke along with most of the screens. These pupils could say the names of their classmates and the names and roles of staff members. They could also find where these staff members were located. Where pupils had difficulty with the language they were able to substitute sign language /Lámh. When the pupils had the language to accompany different daily events there was a marked improvement in behaviour. Events perceived as not very exciting could be followed by an attractive activity. Children were able to understand the school timetable better and with this knowledge there was a marked increase in self- esteem.

This project met the curriculum objectives for the class in the areas of Language Development, Social and Personal Development, Mobility training, "Stay Safe" Programme and Social Maths. Using the computer to support and enhance language development is an extremely effective way to involve Special Needs pupils of all ability levels. Pupils who did not speak using the programme improved their eye contact and concentration skills. They became more aware of their surroundings and their receptive language skills improved.

In facilitating this project I learnt that it is important to plan the direction of the project and to be convinced of the benefits to learning disabled students in using I.C.T's. Also, it is important to let the project grow at it's own pace according to the needs of the group. The pupils regard the use of their own pictures as absolutely wonderful and the teacher only needs to tap into that. Work at their level and keep alive a sense of excitement and fun.
St. Clare's Special School
SIP 058

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