TJHSST Students Use Coding and Creativity to Communicate with Non-Verbal Elementary Students


As the working day winds down at Freedom Hill Elementary in Vienna, students throughout the making are antsy and all set to head residence. But in one classroom for college students with intellectual disabilities, Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. is the emphasize of the week. It’s the time they get to Zoom with their ‘buddies’ from Thomas Jefferson Superior University for Science and Technology.

4 non-verbal college students positioned in their desks mild up as they see four more mature pupils seem on the large screen at the front of the room. With the enable of an aide, a person young scholar varieties on his Voice Output Interaction Gadget, diligently tapping the colorful icons laid out on the display to form a sentence: Be sure to do a foolish dance! 

He excitedly flips the gadget about to the camera, revealing his request. On the other end of the Zoom, the TJ learners lean in to browse the text typed out and start off to snicker. They all glimpse at each and every other, then hop up and start off to do a silly dance. The 4 non-verbal students view the screen in delight and giggle at the amusing dance moves. It’s a moment of joy for every person. 

A student uses a device to communicate on a Zoom meeting.

These weekly meetings are at the heart of the TJ Assistive Technology (AT) Club. The club’s aim is to foster conversation in a enjoyment interactive way as a result of online games, pursuits, and examining. For the Freedom Hill learners, it’s an possibility to apply on their devices in a relaxed environment. For the TJ college students, it is a chance to create game titles and discover coding equipment this sort of as HTML and JavaScript. For equally sides, it is the unique connections built that go away the most long lasting affect. 

“I truly like encouraging young ones,” said junior Vivian Denny. “I also like coding and the technologies is truly appealing. But it’s so pleasant to see the youngsters escalating and obtaining superior. When they produce individual messages to us that are not part of the action, it’s truly pleasant for the reason that it exhibits they are actually understanding and they want to use the unit on their individual.” 

TJ AT Club members play a game with a younger student over Zoom.
TJ AT Club members perform a activity with a young university student over Zoom. 

For non-verbal students, discovering main terms is the most important objective. They apply utilizing basic nouns, pronouns, and verbs to build small, simple sentences on their unit. The actions that the TJ students create aim on that goal. Club customers meet on Sundays to brainstorm and arrive up with their online games, then invest a pair hrs coding to bring their vision to life. 

“I enjoy know-how, so coming right here and conversing to the youthful children and building all these video games for them is the fantastic mixture of activities,” said sophomore Amith Polineni. “They know a large amount, so all we have to do is be there encouraging them and guiding them along the way and be affected person when they are typing.”

Husband and wife duo Eric and Mary Beth Fleming both do the job in Assistive Technologies Companies for FCPS Eric on the significant faculty side, and Mary Beth on the elementary facet. Mary Beth states 1 of the most effective points about the TJ AT Club is that the youthful learners definitely want to connect and categorical them selves to their more mature buddies. 

“It’s incredibly motivational for the learners because they are speaking to the higher faculty youngsters. They’re talking to the amazing children,” Mary Beth mentioned. “It’s additional like a peer trade in its place of the usual interaction techniques they are working towards with the older people.”

Student laughs during a game created by the TJ AT Club members.

Several of the TJ college students have been a component of the club for two or three a long time, and have watched the more youthful learners grow and strengthen more than time. The objective for each non-verbal college student is different, centered on their Person Instructional Program. Some college students count only on their devices, when many others are ready to say a several text verbally. 

“Three many years in the past some of these students were only in a position to use two to a few words at a time,” Eric Fleming claimed. “Now they’re capable to use 5 or 6 phrases, and which is superb.”

The TJ AT Club has been close to for more than 15 several years. Even prior to the pandemic, the conferences were being performed above movie meeting, so that just about every team could take part from their individual university. The club commonly does a handful of in-particular person meetings each year, but which is at this time on hold thanks to COVID-19 restrictions. In addition to Independence Hill, TJ club customers also get the job done with students from Vienna Elementary. The Flemings hope to develop to require much more elementary schools in the upcoming, if scheduling will allow. 

TJ AT Club members show one of the games they created.
TJ AT Club customers present a person of the games they produced. 

Again over at Flexibility Hill, the 30 moment Zoom session is wrapping up and it’s time for the more youthful pupils to say goodbye to their TJ buddies. Every student usually takes a minute to form out a special message on their device. 

“Bye Pal.”

“Goodbye Appreciate You.”

Both teams excitedly wave toward the digicam, keen to reconnect subsequent 7 days. 

Read additional about FCPS Assistive Technological know-how Services. 

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