A WANDERING STAR 2?
Maggie Wagstaff, Advisory Teacher for IT and SEN in Warwickshire continues her look at Roamer in the MLD sector.
We first introduced Roamer to a group of 10 year olds. This group included children with visual disabilities, an electric wheelchair user and a child with communication difficulties. There were also some children in the group whose communication was good, but who had learning difficulties.
Again we felt that the preparation for working with Roamer was very necessary but we decided that it would be most profitable as a complementary activity. The introduction to Roamer fell to me and much to my chagrin, the children were convinced that not only did I have to press Roamer's keys to make him go, I also had to talk to him. I experienced some panic at this juncture, as the non-communicating child in the group was beginning to withdraw from the situation already. However by enforced silence on all our parts, the myth was laid to rest.
When we programmed Roamer we walked with the children through the same process, our lad in the wheelchair was in his element because he now had two things to control and he had to synchronise them. His animation was a treat, our aim was to try to get him to turn his chair more accurately!
One of the children with severe visual problems was the first to consistently remember the correct programming sequence. She developed a confidence and application to task we had not previously noted and went on to correct everyone's programs. The keypad was difficult for her to see, but she made very good use of her useful near vision and liked to follow Roamer along the floor.
There was great enthusiasm for making a bridge for Roamer to go under. Their chosen method was to stand with legs astride and watch him trundle underneath useful opportunity for counting activities presented itself as we added more people to make a longer bridge.
Within this activity the child with communication difficulties returned to the group and consistently sought the end position. This gave her the opportunity to pick up Roamer and go back around to the start again. We were using the GO key at this stage to reactivate the program we had agreed upon. From here she enjoyed pressing GO to reenact other children's programs.
The next development was to use Roamer in her decision making. She used a symbol book to express some needs and had an Echo 4 box which we hoped to use to enable her to make choices in a game of "who shall we send Roamer to?"
The idea of using Roamer as a counting device was developed by the class teacher using Roamer in their topic about the Post. A road was made with houses down one side and Roamer called at each house in turn. To add authenticity, he sometimes had to miss a house because there was no post to deliver. By the end of that half term some of the children were introduced to odd and even numbers and houses were established on both sides of the road.
The Maths work which grew out of using Roamer in this way created learning opportunities for all the children in this group. However their favourite activity was, "Who can get Roamer out of the room and into the toilet!"
Most interesting for the staff, was the reintroduction of Roamer about 7 months later, when this group moved up into another class. They helped each other to remember the correct programming sequence and within 10 minutes had shown their skills and were eager to teach other children in their new class what Roamer could do.
If their aims remain the same as last year, their turning skills are going to be severely tested, as the toilet is very inconveniently placed!
Roamer has been and is proving to be a highly motivating tool in many of these children's work programmes. I hope that the children's enthusiasm and the careful planning of their teachers will reserve a place for Roamer on the classroom floor, preferably singing!
I feel that my fame is assured, as I am greeted as "Mrs Homer", I wonder
if this lends further weight to my odyssey!
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