Cariola Students Have the Write Stuff!
Imagine being asked to compose a story that will be entered into a national writing contest. Imagine being non-verbal. Imagine having limited motor skills where picking up a writing instrument or using a keyboard is nearly impossible.
Now, imagine you’re a student at Mary Cariola Children’s Center. Imagine you are under the guidance of a highly skilled Speech Pathologist.
Of course you’re going to enter the contest! And of course, your entry is selected to be published! That’s exactly what happened to not one - but five - Mary Cariola students! Five stories were submitted to the Young Writers Spooky Saga contest and all five stories were selected for publishing. Young Writers is an organization that encourages young writers to read, write and enjoy poetry and creative writing.
Each of our published authors are high tech communication device users who worked directly with their Speech Therapist/Pathologist to compose their masterpiece.
Speech Pathologist Tricia Coleman collaborated with student Shamell to write “The Battle of the Ghosts.”
Shamell used his eye gaze communication device to write a 100-word story. (Eye gaze is a type of communication device that uses a mouse that you control with your eyes. The device follows your eyes with amazing accuracy to see where you are looking on the screen. Shamell scans the many options and layers of communication topics, focuses on a particular topic, and then the device picks up his eye movement and verbalizes the word that he selects.)
Tricia described the process as very laborious and challenging because Shamell first had to learn the sequence of writing a story. She credits Reading Specialist Sarah Westbrook with accomplishing that task.
Tricia then broke apart the sequences of a story, color coded a visual handout that Shamell could follow that started with subjects, setting, timing, activities and outcomes. Tricia’s color codes were consistent with the color codes on Shamell’s communication device.
Slowly and methodically the story unfolded as Tricia worked with Shamell to identify the subjects of the story and then composed sentences following subject, verb, and object format.
The hardest part? “Not giving Shamel ideas,” said Tricia. “It would be easy for me to help fill in some of the blanks but this was his story and it was all about his ideas.”
For Shamell, the accolades of being a published writer at age 17 are just the tip of the iceberg.
“He is so proud of himself,” said Tricia. “You can see that in his smile; he has a sense of pride and accomplishment. I hope he shares this news with others which could open doors in the community and allow him to be more involved.”