Junior high uses program and device to help nonverbal students speak

Published: Apr. 8, 2019 at 10:43 PM MDT
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A Burley Junior High special education teacher is using a program and device to help her nonverbal students have the ability to communicate.

"Hi," the device speaks.

"What's your name?" KMVT Reporter Elenee Dao asked the student.

"My name is Jonathan," the device said back, after student Jonathan pressed a button.

Special education teacher Jennifer Schafer has been using a program called Snap + Core First. Some students can use this program on a device or have an app downloaded on an iPad.

"Communication is the most important thing that I teach to my students," Schafer said. "They have a lot to say and it’s important to them. They can tell you about what they want, what their needs are. How they’re feeling."

The student can choose a variety of options in the program on a tablet.

"The sky is the limit for what you can put on here for the kids," she explained.

This gives an opportunity for kids like Jonathan to have a voice.

Schafer said they normally use core vocabulary.

"These are the words we use 80 percent of the time, then we have fringe vocabulary which is nouns," she said. "We want to focus on teaching the kids on how to use core vocabulary because you get more bang for your buck that way."

She said seeing technology like this after being a special education teacher for more than 15 years is indescribable.

"There’s no words to describe it. Communication is powerful and it’s so important. They have a lot to say," she said.

She said she's seen progress from her students.

"I've never had this kind of progress before, so it’s exciting," she said.