I live in Arizona and my mom lives in Illinois. Last week I found myself ordering her Mother’s Day gift online. After typing my financial and personal information and checking the order twice, I hovered the cursor over the word PURCHASE. “Click.” I was redirected back to the home page of the website. Hmmmm. Did they get my order? Was my credit card charged? Did I need to start over? Was my mom getting her gift or not? I started to feel a bit anxious because as you all know, a financial transaction has not taken place on the internet unless the follow-up screen gives you something extremely important: CONFIRMATION!
Students with Visual Impairments and Multiple Disabilities need this important follow-up as well. Though not from the internet (obviously). They need confirmation from us! More importantly, they need confirmation via their preferred method of receptive communication.
Our sighted learners have the benefit of receiving conventional confirmation messages incidentally from another person’s head nod, a change in posture, a smile, eye gaze, or a verbal message/language. Many of our learners miss these subtle confirmations depending on their visual impairment. With additional cognitive involvement, they may also miss verbal forms of confirmations because of difficulties processing auditory information efficiently.
Our visually impaired learners who are early communicators need our confirmation in alternate modes. They need to know that all of the messages they send are received. While these messages may take the form of a facial grimace, a leg kick, a vocalization, an action on an object, or a complete sentence, they carry important communicative intent and need to be acknowledged.
Immediate, accessible, and simple confirmations are a critical component of early communication and literacy instruction. They reinforce joint attention, they serve as a turn during a communication exchange, and they promote initiation of intentional communication – all critical foundations of learning and literacy.
As you plan your next literacy lesson with an early communicator, consider how you will build multiple confirmations into your exchange. Have you built in repetitive targets for your student to reach successfully? If so, you already have so many opportunities for confirmation. All you need to do is decide how you will provide the confirmation.
You can imitate your student’s movements and actions, vocalizations, language, etc. You can also confirm by making deliberate facial expressions, body movements or vocalizations (based on your student’s access to visual or auditory information). The more dramatic, the better! Your student needs to process this confirmation as efficiently as possible so they can keep on generating even more success during the learning process.
If Megan could speak in the above photograph: “I am confirming you acting intentionally with this writing utensil by signing “yes.” I know you understand the sign “yes” and will continue writing even more after this confirmation. In a second, I’m going to turn to your peer and give him very deliberate eye contact and facial expression, confirming he got my attention by tapping me.”
When it comes down to it, we all need confirmation during learning, just like we need confirmation following our internet purchases. Which reminds me: for those of you holding on in suspense regarding my Mother’s day debacle, I received email confirmation of my purchase shortly after freaking out. I must admit however, the confirmation that came later was way better: