|▲ Special Education Department Students at CWNU who are conducting book reading activities with severely disabled children (Source: CWNU Waggle)|
Since August, Changwon National University's Special Education Department has been conducting book reading activities for children with severe disabilities, who have difficulty moving and communicating, at Changwon Central Library. Special Education Department students and Academic Advisor Han Kyung-im, said that reading activities using the Augmentative & Alternative Communication(AAC) system with adapted books, allowed children with severe disabilities to read books, and subsequently improved their language and literacy skills.
AAC is a communication aid that helps people who have difficulty expressing and understanding words and languages, to express their opinions by pointing to pictures or letters. This can be helpful not only for the disabled, stroke and dementia patients, but also for foreigners who have difficulty communicating in Korean. Adapted books are to simplify the contents of the published general fairy tale books, so that it does not deviate from the author's intention in consideration of the characteristics of children with disabilities, and to modify the book using AAC symbols, instead of text. Students of CWNU's Special Education Volunteer Team lent general fairy tale books suitable for the cognitive level of children with severe disabilities at Changwon Central Library. After that, the content was simplified with the advisor, and six revised fairy tale books were created by selecting the appropriate AAC symbols. One student from the Special Education Department and one child with disabilities were paired to conduct book reading activities.
Participating children only listened to the content of the books read by special education students at the beginning of their activities. However, as the activities progressed, the children repeatedly said what they read by expressing themselves using AAC tools. Jeong Jin-wook, a student at Changwon National University's Special Education Department, said, "I was really surprised to see a child who didn't know AAC symbols at first and who wasn't interested in books, to know the character names at the end of his activities. When asked, I found symbols in AAC tools and later borrowed books from the library." Lee Seung-hoon, a student, said, "The child became very interested in books, and I was really happy to hear him speak after the sentences he read in the book." "It was a good experience for me, who dreams of becoming a special education teacher, because I think activities with my children helped them grow," he said. An official at the Grass Leaf Daycare Center, which includes children with disabilities who participated in the book reading activities said, "I was surprised to see children speaking after learning the content of the book and answering questions with AAC tools.” “Through these activities, I think it is very important for our children to read books in a space with ordinary children in the sense of full integration between disabled and non-disabled children.” “I hope to continue reading books with effort, modified using AAC symbols in the future."
Since 2021, CWNU's Special Education Department has been producing and distributing AAC communication assisted illustrations and text boards for 13 libraries in Changwon. As a result, children with severe disabilities will be able to experience integration into society, while reading books in community libraries, diversified with non-disabled children, and enjoy the right to read books regardless of whether they are disabled or not. We hope that the communication gap between the disabled and the non-disabled will gradually decrease, making it a society where children with severe disabilities can freely go to libraries near their homes and read books.
By Jung In-hee, reporter firstname.lastname@example.org
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