I just had a local teacher email me asking for some hints on doing a GAA with a student with profound disabilities. Is it possible? Yes it is, and I’ve done it more than once, each time successfully. I could get a potato through the GAA and show progress.
It’s a bit of a charade, but it’s possible to get anyone through the GAA as long as you have an open mind! Even if the student is in a coma, they can do a GAA and show progress. I know it’s stupid, but as long as we’re all willing to wink and carry on and follow the rules, I’m willing to try to keep my outrage to a minimum. Just don’t change the rules.
At this point, you’ll have to look at the academic standards for the student’s grade level from the 2009-2010 blueprint. I just scrolled down to the 7th grade standards and they are not too far off from what I do at the high school. So I’ll give you a basic setup on some possible tasks:
ELA #1 – Reading comprehension: I think every grade has some sort of reading comprehension. At the high school, we have specific areas, like American literature, nonfiction or poetry. Basically, I pick a book or story that has some support with it, or that it will be easy to make things for. During the first collection period, I read the story to the student and have him point to some of the pictures. Take pictures of him pointing, or (better yet) of you holding his hands pointing. You want to keep the baseline very low at this point. Of course, if he can point independently, sure go with that. But for someone who is seriously profound you will be hand-over-hand. Get pictures of this. The second task involves watching a movie to TV show of the story. Same rules apply, where I get pictures of the student watching and perhaps being physically prompted to touch the screen. Keep it all pretty simple and low tech. Remember, this is a baseline and you’ll have to show progress from this point.
ELA #2 – listening, speaking, viewing – I think everyone has this one, too. I have one task that involves a basic scripted conversation: “Hi”, “How are you” I’m fine” and “Goodbye.” This is pretty basic and can be done with a step-by-step single switch or a Gotalk 4+ or similar device. This is the one time where you might try to use audio or video, because the conversation is already scripted and programmed. But I stick to captioned photographs, because I like that medium of data collection and it has always worked for me. The second task could be a different way of giving information or answering questions. I like something like requesting food, because that opens me up to generalization later. We can start at the school cafeteria (or home or hospital) and then expand to ordering at a restaurant during that second collection period thus showing progress and generalization. I’m always thinking of how to increase the level of independence, sophistication or achievement in order to show progress. Actual achievement is the variable that I have the least amount of control and certainty over, so I program progress into it by increasing independence and sophistication using technology. Collection period #1 is very low tech and very simple. Collection period #2 gets very technologically sophisticated and fancy.
Algebra – I usually use modeling addition, but we’re still on QCC standards at the high school, so you’ll have something different. But the basic template is the same. Pick two tasks that demonstrate the same concept and keep it very simple for the first collection period, and use hand-over-hand. During the second collection, you can hook a switch to a laptop and do all sorts of cool things. As long as the student can hit the switch (with or without your help) they can show progress.
Geometry – I’m all about doing stuff with shapes. Again, collection period one involves drawing hand-over-hand and pointing to shapes hand-over-hand. The second collection period involved using a computer and a switch to do some different things more independently. Getting the student to become a switch user is a big key, here.
Social studies – This used to be difficult for me, until they opened up all the standards. Looking at the 7th grade blueprint, you have some nice options. We picked Mexico and did a ton of activities surrounding that place and culture. Collection period #1 involved just looking at books and video, where collection #2 involved doing activities and accessing material using the computer and technology. We actually had so much fun, that we sort of went “around the world” and did a mess of countries and cultures, and talked about food, music and traditions.
Science – I’ve done both biology and physical science tasks and the key is finding sufficient things to support what you’ll do in the second collection period and two separate tasks. Again, one task could involve reading a book or watching a video while the other involved actually doing something with some material. For biology, we planted some seeds, and this was the activity for collection period #1. Collection period 2 involved watering, measuring and perhaps comparing two different plants or similar plants under different conditions. Timing it tricky with live plants as if you start too late, your plants might catch the frost! Start too early, and your administrator might have issues with the dating of the material compared to the rest of your subjects. You’ll have to watch the 3 week window.
A lot of things I’ve said might not make any sense to you right now, but hopefully you’ll get some basic GAA training that will flesh this process out for you. There’s a bunch of niggling rules and details I’m skipping over, but my experience is that planning and designing the tasks is the hardest part. Once that is done, the other stuff fits in and things can be adjusted.
At this point in time, look for whatever it is you think you might want to use for your reading comprehension. See what other grade-level teachers are using. Then, see if you can find an adaptation of it, such as a graphic novel. Also, if there is a movie of it, you’ll have a nice package. For instance, Frankenstein has many adaptations. If you go to the Significant Disability GA DOE Website, and scroll way down, you’ll find a whole unit of activities that uses this story.
Hope this helps!