Chapter 16 opens with Melody’s first day at school with her communication device, “Elvira.” The text describes her attempts, failures and successes with the device, noting that she “kept messing up, but Ms. V wouldn’t let (her) quit.” She mainstreams into a generation education classroom, to put her new words to the test. She was able to introduce herself, make appropriate comments, and share a joke with her peers. She stated “for the first time in (her) life,” she felt like part of the group. As the week progresses; however, she comes frustrated with the limitations of the device in regard to conversational use. Most of her utterances were social mediated, targeting basic comments to engage her peers. Despite her access to communication, Melody still ultimately feels separated from the group. Her ability to share her thoughts has improved, but she still feels relationally disconnected from meaningful interactions with kids her own age.
As an SLP, Melody’s story resonates with our work with special populations in schools. We often program and plan to integrate greetings and to answer simple questions, to request and to affirm. Melody’s story challenged me to consider communication’s role in human connection, and how I can use that goal to shape my therapy. As I move forward as a provider, I will consider how to incorporate meaningful connection between students through small group work. Communication with typical peers would often be best targeted in a small group settings at first, with adult facilitation and support. Communication is a tool that opens the door to joining a community, and the speech session is a great place to build that community.