What happens when kids are explicitly taught how to interact with each other in ways that support the development of communication and social skills? Everyone wins! The following is one family’s experience as their daughter transitioned from Grant Wood’s Early Access program to a peer supported preschool classroom.
"Grant Wood AEA did so much for our family since Parker’s initial evaluation at 16 months old. It was all very new to us and we definitely needed guidance and everyone who has worked with our family has been so knowledgeable, compassionate, uplifting and just wanted what’s best for Parker!”
“There is no doubt in our minds that Parker has learned an incredible amount from her own peers. The inclusion we have seen via videos and photos brings tears to our eyes seeing how patient, helpful and kind Parker’s friends are with her! Her teachers teach and reinforce a mindset of acceptance and it shows. Her teachers tailor literally every activity so that Parker can effectively participate. They also show her peers how to help her communicate and socialize during those activities. Visual aides along with her communication device are used to assist her to complete tasks throughout the whole day.”
Parker’s growth can be seen outside of the school setting as well. The support of peers has enabled Parker to use these new skills with kids her age outside of the classroom.
“We have noticed improvement in her engagement with kids her age outside of school, and we know that is directly correlated with how her peers interact with her at school — through small groups, centers and partner play.”
When everyone works together, great things can happen and that’s what this family has experienced with the collaboration between Grant Wood AEA, preschool, daycare, and private therapies.
“She’s been very quick to learn how to navigate her AAC device, which we are so grateful to have this opportunity and technology! She enthusiastically refers to her device as her 'WORDS' and uses it at school, daycare, private speech therapy, and at home! Her friends at school are encouraged to explore the device and assist Parker in using it which is awesome! She is repeating/using so many words on the device to help grow her vocabulary and daycare has even mentioned how they have used it to ease some communication frustrations. We love how everyone is coming together to work with her on the same goals!"
Special thank you to the Stout family for sharing Parker’s experience in an inclusive, peer-supported preschool program. Parker attends North Bend elementary, which is a certified LEAP classroom in the Clear Creek Amana school district.
About the Authors
Jess Krob is a speech-language pathologist who leads the AAC Resource Team which works to build capacity among agency SLPs and IEP team members in the evaluation for and implementation of communication systems and supports to enhance participation, engagement and success for learners of AAC across all educational settings and communicative partners. This is Jessica's second year leading the team but she has been involved in this work over the last 10 years.