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Teacher’s innovation an example others can follow

Kyrie Li, a Mars Area Primary Center kindergartner, peruses foods on his augmentative communications device Thursday at North Park Lounge. His teacher, Jordyn Wyllie, added foods to the devices and created an adaptive menu to be used at the restaurant, where she works as a server on weekends. Paula Grubbs/Butler Eagle

As a life skills teacher, Jordyn Wyllie understands how important it is for students to be independent and able to do things for themselves.

As we learned in the Wednesday, April 17, edition of the Butler Eagle, Wyllie used that experience, along with that gained from her other job, a server at North Park Lounge in Cranberry Township, to give nonverbal children a new kind of independence. Wyllie worked with her students at Mars Primary Center to teach them how to use augmentative alternative communications devices to order for themselves at restaurants.

The devices give people who have difficulty speaking the ability to generate words electronically, either by touching words on the screen or by selecting images that prompt the device to say the appropriate word. Wyllie added foods to her students’ devices and set up a mock cafe so they could practice ordering for themselves.

She went a step further than that, though. At North Park Lounge, she developed an adaptive children’s menu.

The four-page menu lists favorites like chicken fingers, pasta, pizza, apple slices, apple sauce, french fries and burgers in larger print and also includes a picture beside each item.

Youngsters can point to the item they want on the menu, or, if they have one, they can use their communication device to order.

She included more than food on the menu. One full page is full of pictures and text a diner can touch to communicate various needs, like “all done,” “I need a break,” and “more.”

Jessica Semler, principal of Mars Area Primary Center, pointed out the larger way communication devices and adaptive menus are good for the students.

“I hope kids feel confident and have the tools now that they know wherever they go, they are able to interact with anybody around them,” she said.

The test of the menus last week was a success, and we hope this is an idea that spreads. It’s a simple way to use technology to help more people live independently and to build a more inclusive world.

— JK

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