Growing Confident Communicators (Ep 163)

best special education resources communication online special education resources resources for special education teachers resources for special needs parents Dec 14, 2022

If a child lacks confidence in communicating, they communicate less. When they communicate less, they develop a habit of not participating. This habit can often follow them into adulthood. That’s exactly why we need to work together in Special Education to provide research-based programs in the area of communication. We also need to get serious about the data that needs to be collected and the teamwork it takes between parents and teachers to see meaningful progress in the area of communication. Plus, learn about one of my favorite language development programs, Gemiini! 


Listen to the episode here.

Full Transcript:


Growing a Confident Communicator is essential. Welcome to the Special Education Inner Circle podcast. I'm your host, Catherine Whitcher, and I want to encourage you, I'm going to share with you some resources through this episode. I want you to have a free IEP checklist. All the links to the things that I mentioned are above or below wherever you are watching or listening to this. So make sure that you get your resources from this episode. So we are talking about growing a confident communicator because this is essential. This is essential to building an IEP that works in the real world and making sure that a child is truly prepared for further education, employment, and independent living. That includes a lot of communication support. That includes making sure that a child is moving from where they're at to that next level of communication, and making sure that we're using research-based practices, making sure that we're making data-driven decisions, and making sure that we're working as a team between home and school when it comes to building up the communication skills of our children, of our students. 



This is going to take teamwork. A child needs to have confidence in their ability to communicate, because when they do not have confidence in their communication skills, they tend not to participate, right? So if I don't have confidence in communication in communicating, then I'm not going to participate. And when I don't participate, then I get in a habit of not participating. And this habit of not participating can actually carry over into adulthood. And I see that in our adult disability community. You guys know I have a brother who's 45 with Down Syndrome. So I have a lot of experience in the adult disability community, and I will tell you, even my, my brother who, you know, he, definitely can share his opinion, but does he speak proficiently in all situations? No, he doesn't. And, and I can see sometimes I have to say like, Robert, it's okay. 



He then says, oh, can I? I'm like, yes, you can. Yes you can. You can participate. And there's a lot of encouragement to help him communicate. And so I can see how him and his friends, you know, kind of hold back sometimes because they're not always confident and their communication, in fact, you know, we all do that. Sometimes. That's, that's a very typical thing to do, is to not speak up if you're not confident in what you're going to say. But how do we, you know, really build confident communicators in our classrooms or, or at home for our students who need more, the need more than, you know, just the average support in communication. We have to dig deep and find something, again, that's research based, that's data driven, and that has teamwork. And that's one of the reasons that I am talking about Gemiini today. Gemiini is something that I mentioned in a past episode, and I said I would come back and talk about Gemiini's language pyramid. And I love the way 


Speaker 2 (02:58):

That that Gemiini explains their language pyramid and why they use it, and their language pyramid throughout their program. And again, I'm going to put the links to Gemiini here. Gemiini is an online program that is available for both home and school. And that's really important. So that, that's actually, you know, when I say needs to be research based, data driven, and I say teamwork, you know, home and school, that that's a key part of Gemiini is that it can be used in multiple environments, and that's really important. But this language pyramid, let's go to this research, okay? The, the research shows that if we do not have a strong foundation in the first levels of communication, that as we move through the next levels, things will fall apart. And, and I'm sure we've all experienced that when you're learning something, or if you're helping, you know, learning something yourself, right? 



Or helping your child or teachers, if you're helping your students, if we don't have this strong foundation, all of a sudden as we get further down the road, we find out like, ooh, there's gaps, there's gaps in what's happening. And we want to do our best to prevent any of those gaps happening as we are working through, a language pyramid as we're working through these communication skills. So it's important for you to know, especially as you know, let's use this example too, all right? Cuz this is going to be happening a lot upcoming. We have holiday celebrations. Now, I happen to be recording this in December. It doesn't matter if I'm talking about birthdays throughout the year or 4th of July, or if it's Christmas, okay? When there are celebrations or family gatherings or community gatherings, there tends to be a lot of comparison of kids based on how well they communicate. 



All right? So I'm just going to call it out that a lot of times in our disability community, parents feel less than or feel just disappointed sometimes. I'm just going to, I'm just going to say it disappointed, okay? Like, oh, my child is not talking at the same level or communicating at the same level as their same age peers. I've seen it as a teacher. I've seen it as, you know, a sibling. I've seen it as, you know, a Special Olympics coach, right? So I grew up coaching Special Olympics. I've had a lot of experience, just a lot of different families and a lot of different environments. And there can be some frustration or some disappointment. And I want you, if you're a parent or if you're a teacher who feels like, oh, we've been stuck at a level for a while when it comes to communication, I want you to feel confident that building a strong foundation takes a long time, and that's okay. 



And building the strong foundation is worth it. Okay? So sticking with a program where if we're making progress, but it's slow, that's okay. And, and just having the right measurement tools to know that you're moving forward is key. So when you get into these moments of feeling like progress isn't happen fast enough, or look at how far behind my child is when it comes to communication that you feel solid, you're like, you know what? I know that we have gone from here to here. Now, you know, this could be on the language pyramid, right? 


So there's nine levels of the Gemiini language pyramid, and we start with imitation. And at the very top of this pyramid is conversation skills. And there's a whole lot of things in between, like chunking phrases and action words and word labels. And what's really important about, you know, building this foundation is to know that when you build mastery, you build independence. 



And when we rush through and we don't build mastery in communication, we build communicators, our, our students, our children who then become dependent on prompts for all of their communication. And we don't want that, okay? Right? We don't want dependent on prompts for all communication. We want to build up children to be as independent as possible in their communication. So it's really important for us to support through a research-based program. And I want you to go ask parents, I want you to go to ask. And for my teachers just went, no, no, please don't ask <laugh>, don't ask. I don't only answer. Uh, but you know, where's the research based, you know, communication, language learning program? I don't have access to one of those in my district. And if, if you're <laugh>, if you're like, what do you mean, some teachers don't have it, some teachers don't have it. 



I speak from experience that not all districts. In fact, when I was a teacher, I could not have answered this question. If a parent would've came to me and said, what is the research-based program that you're using to teach language and communication? I would've had to go to the speech therapist and said, what are you using? Because she was giving me the tools to use in my classroom. I didn't have anything. I was not given a research-based curriculum as a special education teacher. Just let that sit for a minute, okay? I was not given a research-based program in language communication, reading, math, anything. I had to go seek those out from my district. And this is not unheard of. So when I share with you this, you know, concept, this first step that I said of like research-based program, and I've said it over and over and over, and I'm sharing a tool with you, Gemiini, that, that you can use at home in school, it's because I know from experience that this is not always readily available. And here we're talking about the importance of building a confident communicator, and we're talking about all the things that this can do for a child when 


Speaker 3 (08:55):

We take time to build foundational mastery, when we take time to, help a child make progress at their own pace, meet them where they're at, and have a program that adapts to them when we're talking about how we're going to fade prompts to build confidence and communication and how that's going to build the independence. And it's going to, you know, just open up a whole new world when, you know, the next level of communication always opens up this whole new experience for a child. And, and I start with the research-based program because I know I didn't have it. And I know from going into schools just this past summer, working with teachers, even working through with our teachers and our parents who are in the master IEP coach mentorship, when we talk about curriculum, there's always concerns that there's not research-based curriculum in all the areas that are needed. 



So I want to encourage you that if you are, again, as a parent who is feeling like we need more progress and we need it to happen faster, the first thing is, let's make sure we have a research based program and let's have data so you can make some really good decisions with your team on what can happen next. Teachers, I, I don't want you to be afraid to go get the tools and, and advocate for yourself and the schools to get the tools that you need so you can provide this appropriate education. See, when we start asking for things for research-based programs like Gemiini, to be used at both home and school, and we start seeing the progress that can happen, that's what changes our special education system. That's what changes the outcomes. It, it raises our expectations. We see new doors start to open building our students communication abilities just is life changing. 



So again, I want to encourage you, let's, let's focus on what is a confident communicator for your child or for your students. That's going to look different for everybody. You know, it's going to look different of, of what confidence and independence looks like, but let's define that and let's build that. Let's make sure that our students are participating at the highest level possible with the communication, solid, with all of the tools and the resources and the supports that they need to make this happen. 

Again, I want to encourage you to make this a conversation with your IEP team because when we have strong communication goals, strong communication programs and curriculum, strong communication progress, it truly does really push the momentum of progress to a whole new level. So let's start talking about this. If you have questions about what the process is for getting new programs or asking about research-based programs when it comes to communication or any other area, please don't hesitate to reach out. 



This is a, this is a topic that we need to start talking about more. We need to start talking about not just how to write goals.  Not just how we're going to build an IEP to prepare a child for further education, employment, and independent living, but how are we going to get the tools that we need at home in school to make sure that we have just the support, the education that our teams need? 

And by team, I mean parents and teachers working together to help a child grow. Reach out if you have any questions. And again, don't forget to go check out Gemiini. Go, go find the language pyramid from Gemiini and go see what that looks like. Go see what a confident communicator progress monitoring system would look like. That will give you a starting point of what you should be looking for and what you could have implemented inside of an IEP. 

Again, reach out if you have any questions. Don't forget to grab your free IEP checklist. You guys heard me mention master IEP coaches and how we're problem solving through this all the time. If you're curious about the Master IEP Coach® program, I'll put that link here and I'll see you guys next time.


Write Better IEP Goals. Reduce IEP Conflict.

Learn More About Becoming a Master IEP Coach®