In our work as speech-language pathologists, we have found great challenges in working with the students in life skills classrooms. These classrooms, also referred to as Functional Life Skills, Functional Communication Classes, Structured Learning Centers, and Low-Incidence Classrooms, are generally self-contained classes in which students are segregated from the general education population for a portion or all of their day in order to receive the support that they need to be successful in their community.
Students in elementary life skills classrooms are generally between the ages of 6 and 12 years of age and they have one or more of the following disabilities:
orthopedic impairment (OI)
other health impairment (OHI)
intellectual disability (ID)
emotional disturbance (ED)
learning disability (LD)
speech impairment (SI)
traumatic brain injury (TBI)
auditory impairment (AI)
visual impairment (VI)
Although these children have a severe level of impairment, it is our responsibility as professionals to expose them to age-appropriate material and content regardless of their level of functioning (ASHA, 2010). The seeming disconnect between the rigor of the academic curriculum and the overall communication levels of these children can be overwhelming. Language skills are the foundation of learning and it is our job to bridge the gap between a student’s current language skills and the way academic material is presented so that students are able to learn new concepts and participate to their fullest potential in the academic setting.
The need to bridge the gap between communication skills and academic material for children with profound disabilities drove our goal to create effective intervention units that can address the unique needs of several students in the same session. We needed intervention plans that not only contained content consistent with the school-based curriculum, but that could be easily modified, both physically and linguistically. This was the catapult for the development of our communication units for children with profound disabilities.
We have created this book to share our experiences with you. We constructed and field tested a series of curriculum-based sessions that introduce age-appropriate concepts and modifications for a wide range of disabilities. Our nine theme-based units (thee units in each volume) make it easy for speech language pathologists and teachers to incorporate the requirements outlined in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills and the Common Core Standards curriculum with appropriate modifications for all students. These units were created, tested, changed, edited, added to, and honed by our team of 20+ speech-language pathologists. Now we want to share them with you.
Enjoy and watch your students’ communication skills grow!
Each unit begins with an information page that highlights specific language targets, the curriculum addressed, and provides a list of songs and materials needed to carryout the activities. The information page is a resource that can be shared with the classroom teacher to enhance collaboration. A modifications page is also included at the beginning of each unit. The modifications page allows the SLP and teacher to plan for diverse student needs within each lesson. Each unit also includes picture cards that can be used during the surprise bag activity, a sentence strip, visuals for a related song, games, a craft activity, and a recipe.
Each lesson plan highlights the suggested sound targets, a question of the day, a story, a story board, and comprehension questions. Below you will see a typical lesson plan structure incorporating all of the components mentioned previously.
The first three activities are suggested to be done in a group. This is ideal when teachers and/or teacher aids are able to participate. For the following activities, it is optional to split the class into individual therapy sessions and/or small groups depending on students’ needs. The lesson plan at the beginning of each unit provides an estimated time frame for each activity so you can select an activity or set of activities that will work within your time frame.