Behavior / communication

Cognitive Impairment Communication

Providing a safe, loving school environment is essential for students with more severe disabilities/cognitive impairments.  I have had the pleasure of teaching students with disabilities such as Autism, Down Syndrome, Angelman Syndrome, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Developing a method of communication is an essential life skill that needs to be developed and practiced constantly.



Communication is often more challenging for students with Cognitive Impairments. They often have limited speech, limited sign language, and/or are non-verbal.


iPad’s seem to be the most engaging way to help kids develop these communication skills.


Printed Out Communication Board

Depending on the students needs, I will incorporate these symbols consistently to help develop vocabulary and understanding.6For a VERY limited verbal (basically non-verbal student):


TouchChat Communication Board


More options for Higher Functioning kids

6A little Background Knowledge: Chloe is a 3rd grader student who is always smiling! She loves to laugh, color, and play with others.  Chloe was born with a rare genetic disorder called Angelman’s Syndrome, which causes severe  intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Chloe has very limited verbal communication (mama, dad, me, home, no) and very limited sign language approximations (her and her family have created simple gestures to help Chloe communicate words such as: bathroom, mom, hungry,  yes).

Through Trial and Error, we found that Chloe did much better learning, understanding, and communicating when the symbols were printed out instead of on the iPad. The iPad provided too many distractions and was seen more as entertainment than as a communication tool.

With this in mind, I printed out the basic AAC symbols that I wanted Chloe to learn first using TouchChat. I wanted Chloe to be able to tell me her “wants/needs” so I selected the following symbols:

I, go, want, don’t, help, stop, all-done, different, more, yes, no, hello, goodbye, bathroom, please, thank you


Chloe’s laminated communication board

Chloe  had to touch the symbols and build a 2-3 word sentence telling me her “wants/needs.”  Through consistency and repetition, she was very successful using this communication tool.

How this was taught:
– teacher modeling and using the same simple verbal language
– student points to one symbol (stop, different, more) then 1:1 correspondence (hand-over-hand) to build the simple sentence with the teacher’s verbal prompts
– student points to one symbol (stop, different, more)  then 1:1 correspondence (hand-over-hand) to build the simple sentence without the teacher’s verbal prompts
– student independently building simple sentence and rewarded immediately


I   want  stop.    ( I want to stop the activity)
I   want   more.     (I want more: time, food, toys, etc.)
I   want   different.     (I want something different: activity, toy, location, etc.)
I   want   help.
I   want  go.    (I want to go somewhere)
I   want   stop.    (I want to stop…)
I   want  bathroom.   (I want to go to the bathroom).
I  all-done.     (I am all-done with the activity)
I  don’t  want  more.
I  don’t  want  stop.   (I don’t want to stop the activity)
I  don’t  want  different.   (I don’t want a different activity).


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