Experienced Speech Language Pathologist, Beth Campanelli, talks about facilitating her teaching methods through technology.
by Hassan Javed
At Pothier-Citizens Elementary school they call Beth Campanelli the “visual support queen.” She has spent 19 years as a Speech Language Pathologist helping children find ways to express themselves through an intersection of augmentative communication and technology. Campanelli is now the department head where she manages 25 SLPs in the district of Woonsocket. We spoke with her about how ONEder is helping support staff better ally with teachers and giving them tangible results with their students in and out of the classroom.
Since you work alongside teachers, what does Teacher Appreciation Week mean to you?
In our district we’re looking for any way to really incorporate family and increase their involvement, and we have so many teachers who are really going beyond what happens behind closed doors to engage parents and share what is going on with them. Being a support staff to teachers that are in the classroom all day, every day, I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to collaborate with those teachers and honestly, ONEder has allowed that collaboration to happen seamlessly with the two teachers that I specifically work with.
How can teachers carry the philosophy of Teacher Appreciation Week into the rest of the year?
I think by being supportive when other teachers are in need, or when they’re starting out, or have that student who is not responding the way that other students have been throughout the year. It’s taking the opportunities to lend your support to them in that collaborative, consultative mode and do some out of the box thinking with them.
Tell us a bit about how ONEder has helped you collaborate with your teachers.
It’s all about programming and the ease of programming. In our district, one of the big things that we’ve been encouraging is something we call “Create and Collaborate,” which is just time for professionals to get together. We sit and talk about how the program can be [better] implemented because the more you use ONEder the better it is for you to be able to do it on the fly.
I think when anybody is given the opportunity to use technology and different programs, the hesitation comes because they don’t know how they can apply it to their students. When I’m using ONEder and demonstrating it through a lesson to the whole class, the teachers pick up on that everyday use. They’re able to see how my lesson models show an activity schedule or a comment board and it shows them that kids can be more independent learners when they access the curriculum with support. The teachers realize how they can implement it into their every day, and they have started doing it. The programming is almost limitless once you get comfortable; it’s my little challenge to find “how I can frame this in ONEder” and I’ve never not been able to, it’s been really great.
Tell us about some of your favorite success stories from using ONEder.
ONEder has given me a chance to really be excited about presenting information in a way that kids are excited to interact with, and I feel like we’ve seen a real boost in engagement, initiation, and independence as a result. It’s reinvigorated my zest for teaching.
I’ll tell you a unique success story that just popped into my head. We have a child who could be labelled as selectively mute. She speaks at home but has never uttered a word at school. Her progress has been very slow going. This is a child who wouldn’t come to the rug with the rest of the children, nevermind speak. She was only communicating through an eye blink. We’ve been working to gain her trust and create an environment in which she will put herself out there. I’ve been using ONEder from day one, I’ve always offered it to her and once we got her to communicate with a head nod ‘yes’ or ‘no’, she would very adamantly tell me, “no, she did not want to use that resource.”
Last Tuesday, she came to my small group table and right away grabbed the iPad and started commenting on what we were going to do for that lesson and motioning toward her friends. All of a sudden it became this tool, this bridge that she used to be so engaged and able to join along, which she hasn’t been doing before.
Another student who couldn’t even sit and demonstrate any joint attention during a 10-minute rug activity is now sitting there engaging with his own device and following along, actively initiating functional communication. Instead of doing just a one-to-one activity, I had him with two of his peers playing a spring bingo game and he was able to comment on what he found, on what his friends found, it was so nice and very cooperative.
We have several kids that have their own device on the rug or at their table. When they’re sitting with the whole group, you see the child next to them now using the program with them. It’s just seen as an educational tool, not that [the child] has all these needs, is non-verbal and this is what he needs to use, but that we can all use the same device with varying strengths and needs.
How is ONEder saving you time?
We’re focused on using visual supports and activities to build lessons around thematic units that are in the curriculum and to build our social stories library. Those are things that are going to pop back up every day and from year to year. We have the base of what we did from the year prior and it’s just a quick polish to spruce up your lessons that can then be used for the next time around. It’s not reinventing the wheel every time you’re looking to work on a skill, but building it to support your schedule and your routine of things. It’s very easy to go ahead and then tweak when needed versus starting from scratch.
With ONEder, when you’re able to program even a quick video model of what an activity should look like then the children can watch it and be able to produce rather than needing that teacher or teacher assistant to be sitting right there with them. It’s kind of like having the co-teacher in the room.
We’ve also started to engage and reach out to parents to become a part of ONEder so that the children also have it available to them at home and the parents can work on their end. I help them see what we’re doing here in school and how they can bridge that at home along with just the basic programming needs from there, which has been very good too.
Tell us about the way you used ONEder to help explain to students that their teacher had just got engaged.
Talk about using ONEder for all aspects! I do an OT (occupational therapy) and speech co-teach in a classroom each week and I got a call from the principal letting me know that during our in-class time she would be there to observe the teacher as part of her evaluation. Really the principal was doing the observation because [the teacher’s] boyfriend, who had just moved here, was surprising his girlfriend by proposing to her in front of the kids. It was such a big thing to do, but ONEder helped us stay structured because we always use it. On the day, I said to the teacher “oh ONEder would like to see a teacher leading this lesson, would you mind leading it and I’ll video it for you?”. She went right ahead and did the introduction to our lesson and before you know it her boyfriend was in there and down on one knee. Generally [the kids] didn’t know what was going on, so I programmed a separate scene that just had two simple pictures. One was the engagement picture that you can find in symbols and the other one was a big ring and I wrote “my teacher said yes.” One of our students is functionally non-verbal, and when I asked him what happened today in our classroom, he went right up to the board and pointed to the two symbols. I said “you’re right your teacher did say yes!”. It was very cute and helped them process what was going on.
Beth has posted two of her lessons on the ONEder library. If you wanted to access them, sign up for a free trial and download “Whole Body Listening – Primary” and “My teacher said Yes!”.