Photograph of Mike Hipple’s high school, Appleton West High School based in Appleton, Wisconsin.
Post by Mike Hipple
Quick tell me one thing that you did in high school without thinking about it?
Was it something that you learned in eleventh grade math, tenth grade history, ninth grade science, or twelfth grade language arts?
No hmmm, what could it be? Wait a second ,I think I know, health classes! When we learned about the body and how we can be safe.
No again. What could it be?? Of course, I am joking. In this blog we are going to be exploring how to do homecomings with students who use AAC.
Homecoming weeks were filled with fun. When I started thinking about what to write for this blog, I thought about how much core language that the students and staff use through this week. I was amazed by how many core words that can be used by everyone.
These are some of the sayings that I remember using when I was in high school.
“I like your costume, do you like mine?”
“That is funny!!”
“Go go team!!”
“That is awesome.”
“We’re going to the gym.”
“I like that do you.”
“He went fast.”
Think about how many of these words are core words? As you can probably see, people use core words a lot during homecoming and other special events. Students who use AAC can and should be involved as much as they want to and can.
Unique communication opportunities for homecoming events
Let’s go day by day. On Saturday or Sunday Student Council decorates the school for the week. During the week, there may be themes assigned for dressing up in costumes or dressing up to show school spirit. We had music playing between classes. The staff or principal may also join in with the fun by having special jobs (DJ) or events. Friday I always wore my school colors, orange and blue. We had a change of schedule to make time for a pep rally, my favorite part of the whole week. It was so fun and it had some contests. I drove my power chair around the gym and, this made me feel so included The dance is the last part of the homecoming week that everyone had. My girlfriend and I went to different schools, so we took turns on which school dance we went to.. I enjoyed going to the homecoming dances, but it is okay if your child or students don’t want to go. Not everyone in the school goes to this. I knew many of my friends and classmates who didn’t go. Other homecoming events are the homecoming parade, homecoming court, and maybe a hall of fame and or history evening.
For example, someone had an idea to ask the principal if a student can be the DJ. A way to include an AAC user might be to have an AAC user thank the Principal with their speech-genearting device.
Some ideas that I have to include AAC Communicators could be to have them make the decision on what each grade will be wearing, sell food and beverages for anyone to buy, and make up contests for the school to play in the hall
Suggestions for Inclusion
Some ideas that I have to make sure that AAC Communicators are included are to
- make their device louder and louder to cheer and to sing the school song
- drive their power chair or scooter around the gym, and be part of everything.
- Ask the communicator if they want to go to the football game and the dance. They can be there if they want to. For me, being in my power chair for eight hours, the last thing that I wanted was to get back in my power chair and watch a football game, but looking back now I wish I had gone to the game to be with my friends
I want to talk a little bit about behaviors and how to act during this week. This week is always special and a lot of things are happening. It is understandable that some students with disabilities might have behaviors. Some students have sensory needs or just want to be by themselves. Homecoming week can be fun and amazing, but it can be overwhelming. Because of sensory needs it may frustrating for some students. We need to look at each individual student and ask them what they want to do during this week. It is okay for them to miss one or two things during this week. What it is important for you to do is make the week an awesome time for them and make it memorable for the students
All and all homecoming is a lot of fun, but it is all about communication opportunities. We can work in a therapy room, but any time we can work on core words in a normal environment and with their peers is a huge win.
About the Author
Mike Hipple is a young man with a physical disability. He has been using assistive technology and AAC since 1998 to communicate with his family and to move around in the community. He is an active member of the AAC community and his local community. He started Wisconsin AAC Network in 2015 to give everybody a voice in WI AAC AT communities. When he is working on his writings you bet he will have on the TV or when he is relaxing. When he was in the third grade, he had 3000 minutes in time out, and that is not a joke