This handout is from a recent webinar for Infinitec. I hope it's useful as a 'stand-alone' presentation.
The book 'Communication Circles' is also available on a CD with scores of activities, forms, and light tech displays.
Background: Jan Pilling and I started Communication Circles in the mid-90s as a way to provide consistent support and modeling for students who use communication devices. We started with circles for three students (names are changed!):
Eric was a fifth grader who was fully included. He was very smart and learned vocabulary quickly on his device . . . but rarely used it out of speech therapy, except to yell out 'Excuuuuuuuusssssse meeeeeee!' The communication circle helped him understand that they really struggled to understand his speech, and they supported him in learning and using his device.
Nigel was a 4th grader who used a wheelchair for mobility and had not received a high-tech communication device at a recent eval because he struggled with access. He was included half the day, and in resource half the day. His circle supported him on moving from nearly hyperventilating at the sight of a switch to being an excellent switch user . . . in 3 months! At his follow-up evaluation, he was able to demonstrate the access skills he needed to get a high-tech device.
Jimmy was a 2nd grader with significant verbal apraxia and a language-based learning disability. He was trying to learn to use initial letter cueing and topic setting using his communication device - both with minimal success. By the end of 4 months, his fellow 2nd graders had taught him to use initial letter cueing, and he was making great progress towards topic setting using his device, so that students could better understand his speech.
Features of Successful Circles: I have started or supported numerous communication circles across the past 20 years. The most important features of a successful circle are:
• Responsible Adults Providing Support: It makes a huge difference if one person is 'in charge' with others providing back-up!
• Peers Highly Motivated: Selecting peers for the circle is important. We have had best success when the teacher provides a list of 'approved' students, then the student who uses AAC selects who s/he wants. That way, peers feel valued and the student using AAC feels empowered!
• Consistency and Clear Goals: It is crucial to give very clear goals to the peers. It is easy for meetings to degenerate into students having 'side' conversations and not staying on task. Clear goals and agendas help!
• Homework: The work of the Communication Circle MUST extend beyond a monthly meeting if it is to be more than just a social support. Follow-up goals should be clear, such as modeling, scaffolding interviews, and simply engaging in conversations using clear turntaking roles.
More Information: Jane Odom created a book about Circles of Friends that is available at my website. Use the following link, and choose April, 2012:
Circle of Friends Curriculum
I have created a book and a CD to accompany Communication Circles. The book is included on the CD, along with data forms, sample parent letters, and how-to's for numerous activities to support linguistic, social, operational, and strategic skills. The order form is attached!
Musselwhite Software Flyer
Note - just write in Communication Circles CD - It will be reduced to $25 for anyone who follows this link, plus 10% postage & handling ($2.50).
Comm Circles HO Infinitec Webinar