How to Teach to Non-Verbal Students

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More classrooms are moving toward inclusion teaching students with special needs in a mainstream classroom. Nonverbal students communicate differently and therefore are taught differently to achieve the same goals as their typically developing peers. Also, nonverbal students can range from those with autism to deaf-mute children to those with multiple disabilities, all which can be at various developmental stages. Although challenging at times, nonverbal students can learn as long as a detailed plan is in place and adaptations are made in teaching techniques.

1 Assess student's developmental abilities

Assess student's developmental abilities. Before beginning any educational strategy, it is important to know where the student is developmentally and what the nonverbal student is capable of doing. Evaluations and IEPs are important documents that will detail the needs of the nonverbal student as well as any recommendations for adaptations.

2 Use visual cues

Use visual cues. For a student who is limited in communication skills, visual cues represent the voice of the nonverbal student. Visuals can relay a thought or a need or even a command. For example, if the student needs to go to the bathroom, the nonverbal student can point to a picture of bathroom.

3 Use adaptive communication equipment

Use adaptive communication equipment. There are many products on the market designed to assist students with special needs in the classroom as well as home. Communication builders help the nonverbal child develop their communication skills by way of pictures and sound. Also, for the nonverbal student who knows how to type or use a computer, some computer software can speak for the student based on what is being typed.

4 Learn sign language

Learn sign language. If the nonverbal student is in a mainstream school, learning sign language will prove to be very helpful. This will allow the nonverbal student a way to communicate on his own without the use of any adaptive equipment. Also, other students in the classroom can benefit from learning simple sign language to create more social interaction with the nonverbal student as well as have the ability to understand basic commands from the nonverbal student.

5 Make use of body language

Make use of body language as a communication tool. For those nonverbal students with limited use of their bodies, body language becomes an important communication tool. Things as simple as an eye blink, a head nod or a finger point are all ways that the nonverbal student can answer questions. The key here is to make the questions simple. For instance, if you are trying to teach a nonverbal student colors, show the student only two colors and make her use her body to select the color that you are asking about.

6 Place the nonverbal student

Place the nonverbal student as close to the instructor or teacher assistant as possible. The nonverbal student must have the fewest amount of distractions as possible to stay engaged.

7 Always use positive reinforcement

Always use positive reinforcement. As with any student, always praise the nonverbal student for the effort to communicate. This is encouraging to the student as well as promote continued communication development.

Toni-Marie Ramos is a Business Systems Analyst with 10 years of experience in technical writing for major insurance and IT companies. For the past year, she has been freelance writing part-time for sites such as Demand Studios, Associated Content and Helium. Ramos has a Bachelor of Science degree in marketing from Providence College.