Sunrise Learning is a Center for Autism and Special Needs located in Noida, India. The center uses Avaz extensively for teaching communication strategies to their students. Since communication partner skills are important for a communicator’s AAC use, the center also focuses on training parents so that they can guide children and empower them with communication.
We are grateful to Vandana Gautam who played a pivotal role in Sunrise Learning center adopting Avaz AAC app. Thanks to her passion for implementing AAC in the center, several students with complex communication needs can express themselves better. A huge thanks to Dr. Sonali, Founder and Principal of Sunrise Learning Center for supporting the efforts of all the teachers and making it all happen.
Here’s what special educators in the Center had to say about Avaz AAC and how it has enabled their students to communicate better:
How it All Began
Sunrise Learning’s Avaz journey started on 4th August 2018. We had a workshop on Avaz app byNaryanan. He introduced the wonderful app to us, and it just occurred to us- Why not have such a powerful tool of communication for our students. And thus we got started.
Charting the Course
Initially, it took us a lot of time and planning to make a road map. We spent a lot of time understanding the communication needs. To do this, We requested parents and class teachers to gather background information of each student along with relevant pictures. We created individualized folders for all students on the ipad, with subfolders of “family”, “things at home” “favourites” etc. When a student opened their personal folder on the ipad, they could see their family members, along with other things they could relate to. This familiarity made them happy and motivated them to use Avaz.
When Students Couldn’t Wait for ‘Avaz Class’
As we started one-on-one sessions, the first step was to teach our students REQUESTING using their top reinforcers. The main purpose of this exercise was to get students familiar with Avaz and make them feel motivated to use it. We wanted to give them the idea that their voice can be heard through this tool. We saw amazing communication growth with this strategy. Students were requesting their favourite things such as rhymes and songs. They also communicated about their visit to grandparents, malls, cinemas and many more things. It was overwhelming to see them express their needs and likes !!It became the center of attraction for all the students with them eagerly waiting for Avaz class. Even the class teachers thoroughly enjoyed the Avaz classes, since they saw their students opening up like never before!!
Avaz in the Classroom
Avaz AAC was soon introduced in the classrooms or with smaller groups of students. The class teachers were instrumental in bringing AVAZ to the students by including it in everyday schedule.
Here are a few things that we incorporated Avaz AAC in:
We started with “How’s the weather today?” and “What time is it?”
Each morning, it was a great opportunity to talk about the day, date, month, weather, time etc.through Avaz.
A Greetings folder was created, and every class had a greeting time with Avaz where students were greeted through Avaz and were taught to greet back.A customized template was used for this.
Gradually, we started talking about the seasons, the clothes we are wearing, naming and identifying friends, teachers, school didis, and also about class schedules through Avaz. All the students’ communication attempts were reinforced with their favourite rhyme or song which they could request through Avaz. It was exciting with each day filled with surprises as we discovered the new “favourites” of each student.
Smart Classes with Avaz
We converted the regular classes to “smart” classes using Apple TV. The regular walls became alive with new exciting pictures and videos and drew the attention of the students. These smart classes were different from the regular “audio-visual” classes.(that we create using the projector). These Avaz-Apple TV classes were more engaging bcause we are able to modulate the screen through the buttons on the ipad. And so students were able to enjoy the “real time action” on the wall. It’s fun, exciting, and a novel way to get their complete attention towards the activity or the concept being introduced.
Once we taught them how to pay attention to the teacher and the board, we then introduced students to various concepts through Avaz. We taught them about their surroundings. Most importantly, we helped them to communicate about their needs, feelings, likes and dislikes. This step was the most crucial, in making this app a “voice” for students who are either non-verbal or less expressive. It meant a whole new world for them, and for their teachers, to discover a “new means” to express, say, ask for, request, demand and speak for themselves!!
Avaz’s Role in Acquisition of Literacy and Life Skills
Avaz also helped us to teach students academics skills such as listening comprehension, reading comprehension, picture comprehension, understanding the concepts and storytelling. In fact, storytelling sessions became more interactive, and the quiz sessions became far more fun!
We organized an Independence Day Quiz using Avaz and got amazing responses from the students who might not have been able to express their capabilities without Avaz.
Then in 2019, we used Avaz for a “theatre play” at the 3rd Annual Function at Sunrise Learning. Earlier, other students or teachers delivered the dialogues for the non-verbal students. But with Avaz, the students delivered their dialogues themselves. It was one of the most touching and emotional moments for parents who never thought it was possible to hear their children speak dialogues in a play on the stage at a cultural event.
Recently, we have been using Avaz to teach independent skills to our students. They have been working in the Sunrise Learning Shoppe, and the Sunrise Learning café, working on their own, towards independence and dignity. Now, they make tea, sandwiches using the recipes on Avaz without any other physical or verbal support. Our students are also learning self-help skills using Avaz. Few of the students are using Avaz to order food in the restaurants.
Laying the Foundation for Self-Dependence
So far, it has been a great tool for the students to express their feelings and pain and helped to reduce or minimize control battles, aggressive behaviours and anxiety episodes. Reducing anxiety, in turn increases connection and bonding, thus increasing the chances of learning and development of social skills. Our next step is to gift Avaz AAC app to all our students who need a tool to communicate, express, and learn. We believe that it will boost their self-confidence and their ability to connect with the world, and lead them towards freedom from the “stigma” of being “disabled due to the inability to speak”. Once they learn to use a tool that gives them the “ability” to express themselves, (be it writing, typing, or AAC like Avaz), there is NO STOPPING THEM…!! Thank you Avaz team, for understanding the perspective of people on the autism spectrum, and creating a tool as powerful as this. Thank you, Ms Vandana Gautam for introducing this tool to the students at Sunrise Learning, and inspiring and motivating all the teachers and parents to use AAC to make it a new found “voice” for the children !!
Learn more about Sunrise Learning Center at www.sunriselearning.inwww.facebook.com/sunriselearningnoida122
Hope you enjoyed reading about how AAC was used to power the communication of students with speech and langauage difficulties. If you have a story to share, please let us know in the comment section below or write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org