CCN Alphabet - Sharing What I'm Learning About Supporting Students with Complex Communication Needs


It's hard to believe another year has come and gone. There were many times this year when I sat down to write a blog post but then the words just didn't seem to come.  It wasn't that there was nothing to write, but perhaps more than so many of the things that I have been thinking about for the last few years starting to become consolidated in practice and in the time I wanted more to step back and experience it and let it evolve rather than to wrap too many words around it. 

When I adopted my son 16 years ago, I knew that we were beginning a "special needs journey" but I did not know that we were also beginning a "complex communication needs journey". In those early days, I imagined a very different life for both him and I as his childhood years have unfolded.  

When I made the decision to move from "general" to "special" education 9 years ago, I also knew I was on a new journey, but, again, I was unable to imagine what parts of that journey would become my North Star. 

There are events that stand out now looking back but more so then the events, what stands out is a deepening awareness of how our knowledge evolves; How the way we see things changes as what we know and experience changes.  

Up until five years ago, the work I was doing around communication with students with complex communication needs was pretty restricted to things like sign language, PECs, eye-gaze boards with only single layers, yes/no choices...etc. The work we were doing around "literacy" with this population was also restricted mostly to "literacy experiences" but we dabbled a bit in sight word reading programs. The school experiences of the students that I worked with were also restricted a majority of the time by the walls of our self-contained classroom. 

The journey began with feelings of discomfort that I could not put my finger on, and then opportunities began to open up - a 2-day PODD training by Linda Burkhart, Literacy and AAC courses by Karen Erickson and David Koppenhaver, Communication and Literacy workshops by Caroline Musslewhite, taking my Masters in Inclusive Education and Neuroscience, support from some to educational practice away from a self-contained classroom and toward supported inclusion in age-appropriate general education settings, Alberta's Literacy for All initiatives...etc. Through it all, the awareness of importance of literacy, language, and communication in reference to a person's autonomy and quality of life has grown.  

In the middle of this growing awareness are explorations on how to make it all happen...which leads to more learning and more awareness. We have, by no stretch of the imagine, figured it all out. I'm pretty sure we have still just only seen the very tip of the iceberg.  But we are also making progress and learning a few things along the way.

This summer, I want to do a series of blog posts and share what I (as a result of many interactions with students, parents and professionals) have been learning and thinking about supporting students with complex communication needs (CCN).  I thought to frame it in an alphabet style and do 26 posts - one for each letter of the alphabet - sharing these thoughts.  Tomorrow, I will start with A...

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Links to Completed Posts in this Series
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B is for Behaviour
C is for Communication Process
D is for Descriptive Language
E is for Engagement
F is for Facilitators
G is for Generative Language
H is for "Helping"
I is for Inclusion
J is for "Just in Time"
K is for Keyboard
L is for Language of Control
M is for Motivation
N is for Natural Language Development
O is for Opportunities
P is for Play
Q is for Qualified (Presume Competence)
R is for Robust Language System
S is for Self-Determination
T is for Talk About
U is for Urgency
V is for Visual Supports
W is for Writing
X is for Fix (Communication Repair)
Y is for Yelling
Z is for Zone of Proximal Development
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