Chapters 16, 17, 18

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.

–Laura Woodring

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8 thoughts on “Chapters 16, 17, 18

  1. Amanda Piekarski says:

    I loved reading about how Melody used her communication device the first day at school. It made me think about how we program devices to communicate and the limitations that puts on the students. Thinking about phrases such as ‘that’s cool’ and how they can be utilized in a group setting. It made me sad when she said no one noticed she was missing from her inclusion group.
    I couldn’t wait to see how the Whiz Kids quiz went.

  2. Kathleen Russell says:

    Having Elvira has made Melody almost feel “normal” in some ways. I love that now she is able to stand up for herself against bully Claire. Melody is even able to tell jokes which is huge in her ability to be accepted by peers. Her teacher recognizes that Melody has always had a lot to say but was forced to be silent by her situation.

  3. Pam says:

    I loved reading that she practiced her use of the device with Ms V. My experience with students using devices is limited, and I would think that knowing a student is actually excited about using it and going to use it functionally would be a fantastic motivator for the SLP. In chapter 18, Melody was so angry and she expressed it through behavior instead of using her device. And the point here is that she had to remember to use it to express her anger. That’s a big motivator to communicate.

  4. Jecel Goyala says:

    Elvira allows Melody to feel truly included in her inclusion classes. The ability to speak means she can participate, and it also lets her classmates know that she has thoughts and feelings that she wants to share. Even though Melody is the subject of negative attention, she’s able to defend herself in a way that endears her class to her. Melody’s clever comeback is something that a “normal” student would do, and the class’s warm response makes her feel like just another student.
    The power of AAC devices!!!
    Mrs. V is Melody’s biggest advocate, and she even stands up to Melody’s father who worries that Melody will be disappointed. He knows that Melody is smart enough to get on the team, but worries she will nonetheless be denied a spot. Ultimately, Melody is let down by the Whiz Kids, but it’s right that Mrs. V is encouraging Melody to push herself. (I just love Mrs. V!)

  5. Aimee Burton says:

    This chapter reminds me of a student I had about 9 years ago or so who took off with communication the minute he was given a dynamic device. I hate that it took me too long to realize that he was fully capable of using a dynamic one, instead of the static one he had been using. His entire demeanor changed when that door was opened for him and it drastically helped some of his challenging behaviors very quickly. One of the hardest things about that particular situation was watching him cry when he realized he couldn’t take it home (his mom wouldn’t agree to it unfortunately). Obviously I knew communication was vital to a child’s education and socialization but it had never fully sunk how vital it was to their quality of life.

  6. Karen Reynolds says:

    It is amazing the progress our students make when motivated. Yes, Mrs. V wouldn’t let her quit but it was sheer desire on Melody’s part to be able to communicate effectively with her device. It’s exciting to me when I have students with similar motivation. It significantly affects their progress. Sometimes we say things without recognizing that those words can really hurt. At the end of chapter 17, a statement was made about questions being too easy if Melody was able to answer them. We then see her reaction in chapter 18 with Mrs.V coming to the rescue again. I love Mrs. V.!

  7. Though I have programmed a few devices in my time, my experience is limited. Those children that I have worked with did not take to it the way Melody did. I kept thinking how fun it would be to help Melody program her device. I really wanted to be Mrs. V in that moment!

  8. Sarah Crady says:

    I too was struck by Melody saying “For the first time I actually felt included.” I guess I already knew this but reading if from the perspective of Melody demonstrated how clearly AAC devices contribute to quality of life and true inclusion. I am so happy for Melody that she finally has words!

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