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Judith has several challenging children in her kindergarten class. One smart little boy, Evan, is in constant motion and spends about 30 seconds on any one activity before he noisily engages other children or runs off to do something else. Judith is thinking of installing an inclined sit-up board with a bulletin board at the elevated end so that Evan can do some work while using his ample energy. Evan is a hard student to teach but he’s not her most difficult. That would be Samir who is somewhere on the autism spectrum. He came to the class in September with one word in his vocabulary. No.

It’s now January and with the help of an iPad Judith has helped him build his spoken vocabulary to 17 words. Although he’s communicating more he still doesn’t speak to other children and prefers to sit by himself at snack time. The other day he was sitting at the home centre and Judith came up to him with two pieces of fruit, “Melon or banana?” Samir looked away and made some noises. Judith patiently asked again. Same response from Samir only this time he picked up one of the play phones in the home centre and vocalized into the receiver. Judith picked up the other phone and said, “Melon or banana?” Samir spoke clearly into the receiver and answered,“Banana.” Now when Judith wants to ask Samir a question they speak to one another through the home centre phones. It’s like magic.

Judith is the first to admit that she stumbled upon this unique form of communication with this child. I don’t think of it as a stumble but more like the careful observations of an experienced teacher and a relentless drive to understand the best way to help a child learn. I can’t wait to see how the sit-up board works with Evan.

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