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Many minimally verbal children are intellectually disabled, but Kasari says she has known some children who could not speak, but could read. To circumvent this problem, Brady is developing the Communication Complexity Scale to assess nonverbal communication.

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This test assesses, for example, whether a child uses gestures to request help with opening a clear plastic jar to obtain a toy 3. Children can communicate nonverbally using a variety of approaches, including cards featuring simple line drawings known as the Picture Exchange Communication System , by typing on an iPad, or with the aid of a speech-generating device that can be programmed to say words aloud for the child.

But in fact, the opposite may be the case. Kasari has unpublished data showing that minimally verbal children who also used a speech-generating device early in therapy have more socially communicative utterances after six months than those who get the device later. Still, little is known about how to match minimally verbal children with the best therapies to encourage them to develop spoken language. There are a few glimmers of promise.

Tager-Flusberg and her colleagues are planning a randomized trial of auditory-motor mapping training, a therapy that combines rhythmic hand movements with a sing-song intonation. The approach has been successful in treating people who have lost the ability to speak after a stroke, and pilot studies suggest it can also help those with autism 4. Another intervention that may be particularly helpful for minimally verbal children, called JASPER, emphasizes joint attention and play skills that precede, and may underlie, spoken-language development.

Kasari and her colleagues have found that working on these skills is particularly helpful for children with the lowest language abilities 5 , even those who are intellectually impaired 6. With better treatments, almost every child with autism could learn to speak, Kasari says.


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Darren is considered a thought leader on all aspects of marketing management. And in his spare time he sleeps. Darren's Bio Here Email: darren trinityp3. View all posts by Darren Woolley. Left unattended or neglected, the process of language loss continues until the last indigenous speaker dies. Long before an indigenous language actually slips into extinction, it slowly decays through the loss of its grammatical complexities, the loss of native words forgotten by native speakers, and the loss through the incorporation of foreign vocabulary and foreign grammatical features into the indigenous language.

As language losses accumulate, they also bring about dramatic cultural losses. Assessing the problem and developing a strategy The future of any language lies in its ability to be passed on to successive generations. It is well documented that early childhood is the ideal time for language learning; it is the time when language acquisition occurs in all cultures. In recognizing this, Elder Arapaho community members expressed concern over the fact that children had not learned to speak Arapaho for the past 40 years.

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Out of this concern, Elders articulated their desire for children to become speakers of Arapaho. Faced with the lack of success schools were having in teaching Arapaho, the Northern Plains Educational Foundation, a community group, asked me to direct a language and culture program within the reservation public schools.

I began work in January , and within the first week of my position I realized that in spite of Arapaho having been taught in the schools since , students only received an average of 45 hours of language instruction per academic year; about the same amount of time an administrator devotes to his job tasks in one week of work.

This information made it that much more unsettling when administrators and teaching staff consistently questioned why students were not developing Arapaho speaking skills.

I then realized the magnitude of our struggle to try and maintain our languages and cultures in the face of such deeply rooted colonialistic attitudes that still maintain, with the best of intentions, assimilation is the best course for "Indians. My observations led me to realize that I would have to maneuver carefully. Taking advantage of the newness of my position, I suggested setting up a kindergarten class to test what would be the impact of an hour-long language class, five days a week, over an eighteen week period.

The school's principal acknowledged that this would be the first time anyone had attempted to accumulate statistical information on an Arapaho language class and endorsed the class. After eighteen months the results were dramatic. Addressing the problem with an effective methodology The instruction of the Arapaho language within the Wyoming School District was provided by six fluent Arapaho speakers.

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These Arapaho language instructors were hired on the basis of passing a review of Elder fluent speakers who made up the Arapaho language commission, and it was their responsibility to instruct the Arapaho language to students from kindergarten to the twelfth grade. While none of the language instructors had actually begun their jobs with any teacher training, the school system had provided them with numerous in-services on teaching methods throughout their employment within the school system.

In spite of this, the methods that they learned were not well suited for the task of teaching Arapaho. In creating an hour-long Arapaho language kindergarten class, the strategy was to take five children from each of the three kindergarten classes to form a class that would receive an hour of language instruction each day.

The progress of this test class was then compared to the other three kindergarten classes, which received 15 minutes per day of language instruction throughout the school term. The class was structure to accommodate 15 kindergarten children of varying interests and attention spans who were divided into three groups of five students, with each group assigned to a learning station.

After 15 minutes at a learning station, each group rotated to a different station. After 45 minutes of working at the three different learning stations, all 15 students met as one group for the fourth 15 minute segment of the hour-long period. Each station covered a different aspect of language use.

One station focused on word drills, a second focused on phrase drills, and the third focused on interactive conversations between the children and instructor. At each station the children were led by a different instructor. When the three groups combined into one group for the last 15 minute session, a fourth instructor came into the class and asked the children to respond to various commands and execute different tasks. The obvious strength of this approach was in exposing the children to four different speakers who each focused on different aspects of language use.

This included a list of 32 phrases such as stand up, sit down, come here, are you hungry, yes I am hungry, what are you doing, I am jumping, what is your name, my name is, write your name, are you thirsty, I am thirsty, pick it up, throw it away, put it down, come in, throw it for both animate and inanimate objects , go and get it, give it to me. In addition to the 32 phrases, they could name; 36 animals, 15 body parts, 12 different food items, eight different types of clothing, nine colors, count to 30, and the following 20 miscellaneous words; ball, plate, grandma, box, fork, grandpa, chair, spoon, mother, cup, tree, father, knife, rock, what, paper, river, hello, snow, and mountain.

By the end of a school year the three control classes, in comparison, were assessed at having mastered a vocabulary of between 15 and 18 words.

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Implementing immersion classes I had already known that the best way to accomplish the long range goal of producing children who can fluently speak Arapaho was by placing them in a setting that paralleled the way fluent speakers acquired Arapaho, in other words by immersing them in the language. These thoughts were reinforced after I attended a language conference in May that showcased the immersion efforts of the Hawaiians.

Through my observations at this conference I assessed that Hawaiian children were achieving an age appropriate level of fluency in Hawaiian after being exposed to from to language contact hours.

The goal then became to implement an immersion class in Arapaho. The results of the kindergarten test class were favorably received by the elementary school principal. On the basis of the documented results, a half day immersion kindergarten class was implemented at the school in September The class was set up similar to how the hour-long kindergarten class had been set up, with children learning at different language stations that focused on different aspects of language use.

Along with this initial effort, Arapaho language assessments were developed and implemented for children in kindergarten through fourth grade. The assessments charted what the students knew in Arapaho at the start of the school year and then again between the seventh and eighth week of each successive nine week quarter. By the end of October I realized that the existing weakness in understanding language teaching methods, coupled with the severely limited amount of time allotted for Arapaho language instruction, would not allow for any significant change to occur in what could actually be taught and learned.

This realization led to an Arapaho pilot language immersion class being implemented in January for preschool aged children within the Ethete community. One of the objectives of the preschool immersion project was to demonstrate how children could be guided toward achieving a speaking ability that would allow them to interact with instructors and each other in Arapaho.

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  • Underlying the implementation of the immersion class was the idea that if children could gain fluency before reaching elementary school then the task of language instructors would shift to focusing on maintaining fluency rather than trying to create fluency under almost impossible conditions. The pilot immersion project ran for two hours a day, four days a week, from January to May During the course of this class children were exposed to hours of Arapaho over a four month period.

    When comparing the number of language contact hours received in the pilot project to the number of language contact hours a child received in the school system, it was assessed that it would take a child three years of elementary school to attain the same amount of language contact hours.