SOESD / Newsletters / The Source / January 2005 Source: Steve Boyarsky / STEPS to Success
The Newsletter of Southern Oregon Education Service District
STEPS to success
By Sandra Heinzel Crews
In the STEPS Program, we sometimes measure success in small steps: selecting what to have for lunch, playing with other children, asking for a favorite toy, finishing a job. The stories below celebrate successes of children served in STEPS.
Sams Valley Elementary
Bonnie McKinley, STEPS teacher, writes that CJ is not a loner any more. Last year, CJ only worked in 1:1 situations. When he was frustrated or angry, he screamed, bit himself, or ran out of the room. Now that he understands his picture symbol communication system, he can make choices for his wants and needs. He rarely tantrums. More importantly, he can be part of a group with other students and is starting to learn a lot of new skills. His family says he loves school and can’t wait to attend each day.
Nathaniel started in the STEPS Program as a kindergartner two years ago. He communicated by vocalizing, smiling, or crying and was unable to bear weight on his feet. Now he understands his tangible object communication system and can ask for more of a favorite activity. He can make choices with some assistance and can independently use switches to play music or turn on lights while in his stander or playing on a mat. This year he is working on independently communicating a choice and making standing transfers with assistance. Bonnie proudly notes, “Big progress for a little kid!”
Ryan is a STEPS student with autism, who had difficulty following the school curriculum and interacting with others. Due to Ryan’s limited language skills, his only way to tell you that he was upset was by acting out. Because of his behavior, Ryan spent much of his time isolated from others. Strategies were put into place to help Ryan understand the world around him. Ryan responded positively to a structured, predictable environment paired with visual cues. Chrissy Gehr, augmentative communication specialist, reports that, three years later, Ryan can independently follow a visual schedule, start and complete a variety of work jobs, and is now showing an interest in others. Ryan initiates social interactions, is participating in all classroom activities with his peers, and is beginning to use verbal language to communicate his needs.
North Medford High School
Before they started using calendars and planners this fall, NMHS STEPS students were not able to talk about what they had done. Now they can look back and answer questions about Thanksgiving and where they went the first week of December. According to their STEPS teacher, Kaye Dowling, “This activity has really helped students increase their independence. By checking their planners, they are able to answer their own questions about what is happening next, or when are we going bowling.”
Crater High School
Sean is a student with limited expressive language skills due to multiple disabilities. Sean had a lot to say but no way to say it. To help Sean’s speech and language skills, he began using a software program called Clicker 4. Sean now uses Clicker 4 to reflect on his day. He generates sentences about what he did that day, how he felt, what his favorite activity was, and what he had for lunch. Sean then prints out his sentences to take home. At home, he and his mom are able to talk about Sean’s day, which otherwise would have been impossible. His mother says that this has made a huge difference in their interactions and has unlocked the door to meaningful social interactions and functional reading skills.
Twenty-one- year-old Nichol already has a place at REACH, Inc., an adult supported employment center. She goes there a few times each week and works on a crew that sorts wood. At the STEPS transition site, Nichol sweeps, vacuums, washes dishes, takes out the garbage, and cleans counters independently. She is also an expert shredder and a competent shopper. She can find most items on her picture shopping list and can check out using a debit card with some help. Although Nichol is totally nonverbal, she uses a communication book to order food in restaurants. Says Ted Vanderlip, her STEPS teacher, “Nichol’s use of this book has far exceeded early expectations.”