I was doing my ususal rounds at the agency getting work to the TVIs and what not when I stumbled upon Matthew working in an empty cubicle. He had made three fabulous calendar box/object symbol system for children who have multiple impairments that were visual learners (meaning they did not read Braille). These puppies are awesome and they are easy to make! I instantly knew that I had to blog about this so I immediately asked him if I could photograph and blog this. Then I had a few ideas of other ways you could use these boards. I am going to include all of the information on how to use, how to make and how this is awesome in this post. Get ready to read and then head out to round up supplies! I've made the pictures extra large size so you can really see all the details.
Here's how to get started:
First, you must read my postings on calendar box systems. I've linked some fabulous articles and information about why and how they work. I love calendar box systems. I have used them over and over and I promise you, they are proven effective strategy.
Materials you need:
Thick, foam poster board. Matt used black and whiteCutting blade/box cutter, a good work space. I usually use a broken down cardboard box to cut things on so I don't cut my desk (I've done that before, ha ha...)Board maker softwareLaminatorBlack felt fabric (although any medium thick type fabric would do)Hot glue gun and a lot of glue sticksVelcro or hook & loopObject symbolsTwo hinges (can be purchased from Lowe's for about $3)Black permanent markerSmall plastic flexible bin/basketRed shiny fabricScissors
Matthew glued two hinges securely on the back of the board. The hinges allowed the material to be cut in half so the student is overwhelmed with information.
The thing that I loved about the hinges is that when it cut the material in half, it also gave it a new use. When folded, it provided two options: two objects followed immediately by the finished box and then three objects on the other side. This is awesome because you may have a student that is not ready for a full calendar box system. But they may be ready for now, next and finished system (remember the boards I made? Read about it in another post...) You could just use this side at the most basic level: now, next and finished with the student. Then, after they have got the hang of that, flip it over so you can use the three object side. You can do a three step sequence!! My favorite!! Three step sequences are awesome because you can do a "first, next, last" teaching sequence or a "beginning, middle, end". When the student has mastered this level, they are ready for the full board and the full line of objects. The other thing is that you can multi-use this board. You can still keep the full board for the object calendar box system but then fold it to the three object side when doing work and just put new Boardmaker pictures for the student to follow.
Each picture and symbol have velcro on it. This gives the option of the student using the picture or the symbol or both. I advised Matthew to put the velcro at the top of the picture (cut the velcro into a long rectangle) because when put at the top, it helps with the picture not flopping over at the corners and that helps eliminate glare (since they are laminated).
I also advised Matthew to take a black marker and outline the velcro spot on the board. This makes it an easier target for placing the object in the right place. You may need to make a thicker black outline. It depends on the student. You could also use red. Then, I gave him some of my red shiny fabric to outline the all done (or can be labeled 'finished') at the top because without it, it was a lot of black and hard to tell with depth perception where to put the object in. Lastly (he was great to let me sit there and pop off all these ideas), I suggested he label the all done box so that they student sees the target. It's not exactly necessary but it can help. It also helps the teachers and support staff remember to label this when instructing.
I took the individual object boards down so you can see how he put the velcro on it. Now, always remember this, use a lot of velcro! This gives a better target for students and it helps with durability.
Now, a word about the symbol choices here. You have to be careful with selecting object symbols as you want them to be meaningful not just a bunch of random plastic items. Matthew used symbols that I call 'purposeful plastic'. They are all plastic symbols but they are unique because of their meaning. For example, the soccer ball actually feels like a soccer ball as does the basket ball. They are both pretty darn good replicas of the real thing. Good choice. If he were to use some random plastic ball, there probably wouldn't be a lot of discrimination between the two and it would have been junk. About the bread object for lunch. This too is plastic BUT I agree with this because it looks identical to the Boardmaker picture, it is thick, has texture and is a pretty good replica instead of using a piece of bread. You could use a fork and a for picture. That is a common object symbol for mealtimes.
My favorite of the object symbols is that for computer he used a Big Mac switch. When these students go to computer, this is what they use. A perfect choice for this picture.
This is something you can do at home, school and for vocational training. I really loved these. They are easy to make, duplicate and aren't too expensive. I have a feeling I will be making these over and over for students to use.
*Make sure you and your team (that includes parents) read up on calendar box systems. I can't stress it enough, they work!