Updated: Oct 6
Nadine Frei, Kindle Garden Preschool @ AWWA Ltd
At the beginning of the school year, Nadine and Kieron* were slowly building a friendship, but they needed time to understand each other's communication styles and establish a comfortable rapport. Nadine took the initiative to bridge this gap by actively seeking opportunities to engage with Kieron and create meaningful interactions. Whether it was during class transitions or playtime, Nadine consistently looked out for Kieron, making sure he felt included and part of the group.
Nadine has been creative in communicating effectively with Kieron in school, as he is non-verbal. Recognizing Kieron's preference for gestures, sign language, and vocalizations, Nadine’s interactions with Kieron has helped her grow in understanding his unique cues. She finds innovative ways to facilitate meaningful interactions so that he feels understood and validated in expressing himself.
Kieron is currently learning to use a high-tech Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) device, which for him is an iPad. Nadine has been instrumental in supporting his progress - she actively seeks opportunities to incorporate the use of his AAC device into their daily interactions, providing him with a platform to express his thoughts, wants, and needs. By encouraging Kieron to utilize his iPad, Nadine promotes his independence and empowers him to communicate with his peers and teachers effectively. At times, he may forget to use his iPad, and Nadine would encourage him to take his iPad to respond to the questions. For example, she may get Kieron to participate during Circle Time to show the day, month and year using his iPad.
Furthermore, Nadine often makes sure to ask Kieron questions that he is able to answer, such as yes/no questions or by providing him with options that he will be able to choose from. By presenting choices, she enables him to participate actively in decision-making processes and to express his preferences.
For example, when Kieron is unable to communicate a specific request, Nadine will ask him a series of yes/no questions or provide visual options that he can point to, allowing him to effectively communicate his needs.
As Nadine and Kieron sit together in class, she noticed that activity sheets that were given to him were differentiated such that it has guiding dots to help him in writing his name. One day, she saw that the school’s Occupational Therapist (OT) was working with Kieron in writing his name. She then took the initiative to create an “activity sheet” with dotted letters for him to practice with.
She actively involved Kieron in creating the “activity sheet”, getting him to pick out people whose names he wanted to practice writing. Whether it was the names of their teachers, friends, or even Nadine's own name, Nadine patiently created dotted names for him to practice. This really engaged Kyle throughout the activity, and in the process, he got lots of writing practice! As his interests and choices were taken into account, he really persevered in doing his best to write as accurately as possible. Beyond that, she stayed throughout the OT session with Kieron - her presence and input really motivated him throughout the session. He has now progressed to be able to write his name on his own.
During learning center time, when children are paired with their buddies to interact and play, Nadine consistently takes the initiative to involve Kieron in shared activities. Initially, Kieron had a preference for only a few specific toys, but Nadine's inviting approach has encouraged him to become more open to exploring a wider variety of activities. She actively invites him to engage with different toys and materials, guiding him along the way. Nadine's impact on Kieron's growth has been particularly evident in his struggles with motor planning. Kieron sometimes finds it challenging to navigate physical activities, especially those involving music and dance. During these music and dance sessions, Nadine's thoughtfulness shines through. She doesn't simply focus on her own performance but takes frequent pauses to guide Kieron through the actions and positions required. With a gentle and supportive approach, she tries her best to assist Kieron throughout the dances, helping him better participate through the performances.
Nadine's guidance has also positively influenced Kieron's journey with art activities. Kieron initially did not enjoy participating in art-related tasks. However, Nadine consistently invited him to join her at the art corner, offering him the chance to experiment with various art materials such as paint sticks and watercolour painting.
Through her patient encouragement and support, Kieron has been observed actively going to the art corner and engaging in these creative endeavours alongside Nadine. This progress is truly heartening for the teachers, as it demonstrates Kieron’s growth in sustaining attention during table-top activities, while also providing valuable opportunities for his fine motor development.
Nadine’s interactions and means in communicating with Kieron has really rubbed off on her peers, and because of that, everyone in the class has become very open in communicating with Kieron with his AAC, as well as with other peers who are non-verbal and use an iPad too. In fact, Kieron recently gave a “lesson” on how he communicates using his AAC with his peers, and in the process the class got to step into his shoes to understand how he communicates better. As our school often receives visitors, in one of Nadine’s interactions with the visitors, she took the initiative to share with the visitors about how her buddy Kieron uses the iPad to communicate. This showed that she has truly embraced Kieron’s communication style and has even become a little advocate for him! *Child's name has been changed to maintain anonymity.