Holiday Communication Strategies: Supporting Nonverbal Students

The holiday season brings an atmosphere of celebration, togetherness, and shared traditions. For educators, it’s a time to create inclusive environments that ensure every student can participate in the joy of the festivities. Amidst the holiday cheer, it’s important to focus on holiday communication strategies that support nonverbal students, ensuring that they are included and engaged in the celebration. In this blog post, we’ll explore effective communication techniques to foster a holiday season that is accessible and enriching for all students.

Understanding Nonverbal Communication

Communication goes beyond words, and this understanding is particularly crucial when working with nonverbal students. Nonverbal communication encompasses body language, gestures, facial expressions, and augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) systems. Recognizing and interpreting these forms of expression enables educators to connect with nonverbal students, fostering an environment where every student’s voice is heard.

Creating Inclusive Holiday Activities

Inclusive holiday activities are essential to ensuring that nonverbal students can actively participate and feel a sense of belonging. As educators, we have the opportunity to adapt traditional holiday projects and events to accommodate various communication styles. Crafting projects that emphasize visual, tactile, and sensory experiences allows all students, including nonverbal ones, to engage with the holiday spirit on their terms.

Visual Supports for Holiday Preparations

Visual supports play a pivotal role in preparing nonverbal students for holiday activities. These supports include visual schedules, social stories, and visual cues that help students understand what to expect. By providing a clear roadmap of upcoming events and rituals, educators empower nonverbal students to navigate the holiday season with confidence and reduce anxiety associated with transitions.

A key visual support is using fringe vocabulary boards.  These are boards that are specific to the holiday or activity you are doing.

For example, if you are going to celebrate and watch a movie- maybe make hot chocolate, they you can use an entire fringe board to help students order and make their own hot chocolate.

Click here to get it!

This does not have to end at school. You can send fringe boards home so students can communicate over the holiday as well.  I always send boards home so students are not sitting at the dinner table unable to speak.  

Here is a Valentine’s Day one that you can send home to your students and their families!

Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) Devices

AAC devices play a transformative role in supporting nonverbal students in their communication journey. Communication boards, speech-generating devices, and communication apps provide students with alternative methods to express themselves. This holiday season, incorporating AAC tools into classroom activities allows nonverbal students to actively participate in discussions, share their thoughts, and engage in holiday-themed interactions.

Many students will have fringe pages that you can use on their AAC devices.  It may take some time to find them or edit them to be personalized for the student. Encouraging parents to send you in information about their own traditions can help you edit their devices as well.   Don’t forget to talk to your SLP about this- they are the experts!

Embracing Multisensory Experiences

Multisensory experiences are powerful tools for facilitating communication among nonverbal students. These experiences tap into various senses, such as touch, sight, sound, and smell, making communication more immersive and meaningful. During holiday activities, educators can create sensory-rich environments that encourage nonverbal students to explore, interact, and communicate through their senses. Try baking a traditional meal, I always make latkes for my students- many love to help stir, smell, and even taste!

Planning for Inclusivity

To create an inclusive holiday experience, educators can plan strategically to accommodate nonverbal students’ communication styles. When facilitating discussions or activities, consider incorporating inclusive questioning techniques, providing ample wait time, and encouraging alternative response methods. These strategies empower nonverbal students to actively engage, contribute, and share their unique perspectives during holiday events.

The holiday season is an opportunity to celebrate diversity and unity. By focusing on communication strategies that support nonverbal students, educators can make this celebration truly inclusive. Understanding nonverbal communication, creating inclusive activities, utilizing visual supports, embracing AAC devices, and facilitating multisensory experiences enrich the holiday season for all students.

As educators, we have the power to ensure that every student’s voice is valued and heard. By fostering an environment of collaboration, understanding, and empathy, we create a holiday season that celebrates the uniqueness of every student, regardless of their communication abilities. Let us embrace these communication strategies and make this holiday season a time of joy, connection, and inclusion for all.

To all educators committed to fostering inclusive communication, thank you for your dedication and efforts. Your work creates an educational experience that enriches the lives of every student and paves the way for a more inclusive future. May this holiday season be a reflection of the unity that can be achieved through understanding and empathy.

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