Computer As Translator

My last year of teaching, I had the blessing of having a child who was on the autism spectrum in my home room. At the time, I knew very little about autism but he taught me so much and I learned quite a bit that year that would later help me with Andrew.

This child was high-functioning, verbal and although he required very little one on one assistance, he would sometimes encounter challenging situations in unstructured settings like recess or PE. When this would happen, the teacher involved would usually come to me frustrated over the behaviors exhibited but I would get very few details leading up to the incidents. They had a whole class of students and couldn’t spend all of their time focused on this one child (I totally get that) but since the student was mine and was unable to tell me everything that¬†had happened, I had to find out what was going on.

My instincts and experience with children told me that it probably wasn’t all this child’s fault and that there had to be more to the stories. I began sitting with that student at the computer (something they liked to do) and was amazed at what I would discover. It was so informative and helpful. Using the computer as an interpreter made all the difference in the world. Part of the reason it worked was because the computer screen doesn’t have facial expressions or social rules to figure out. I would type statements or questions and he would respond either by typing or speaking for me to type.¬†Details would come out and quite often he was provoked by another student who was able to escape getting in trouble because they were more socially savvy. When we finished doing this, we could print it out and present it to the other teacher to empower the child with his version of the events. It gave him a voice and a means to stand up for himself. This did not excuse him of any behaviors that hurt or bothered other students but it gave me the chance to work on social stories for how to deal with this in the future. This also allowed me to work with the other students who were involved, let them know I knew what had happened and that they would also be held accountable for their actions or words.

This is just something that I was thinking about today and thought that it might be helpful to share.

Engage, Encourage and Empower!

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