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The STEPS manual outlines a new approach to introducing the ProxTalker and ProxPAD devices. Written by the STEPS Center for Excellence in Autism in Cleveland, OH it is a technical manual that is meant to provide a step-by-step guide to beginning communication training.The manual addresses beginning communication step by step and allows the instructor to break down communication into Steps to ensure that all skills are being taught and to determine the barriers that are prohibiting the student from moving forward.
The STEPS Comprehensive Communication Manuals divide communication training into 3 stages: Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced. Beginning Communication Training focuses on the individual identifying needs and beginning vocabulary. Intermediate Communication Training focuses on using communication to interact with others and the environment for personal and academic needs, increasing vocabulary, and expanding on the components of language. Advanced Communication Training focuses on using communication to interact with others, express thoughts and ideas, and have conversations while taking advantage of opportunities for appropriate social interactions with peers.
Communication is at the heart of human interaction and is the means of connecting human beings to one another. At STEPS, it is our belief that communication should be taught, first and foremost, to individuals diagnosed with communication disorders, leading them to develop healthy connections with the outside world and with others. For communication programs to be successful, they need to be reliable, accessible, effective, meaningful, and offer unlimited possibilities. Communication should be ever evolving and lead the individual to have a system that is valuable not only in expressing desires, but also in expressing inner thoughts and beliefs. If an individual does not have access to a viable means of communication, the connection to others is severed or not developed, potentially leaving the individual isolated and alienated from others. Communication training should be targeted consistently across multiple people in the environment for the individual to recognize the power of communication.
The purpose of this manual is to provide a technical guide to assist in developing beginning communication skills that can lead to comprehensive communication for nonverbal individuals. Since each individual is different, regardless of diagnosis, it is of utmost importance to use this manual as a guide and to modify it to meet the needs of each student. For example, some students learn best with the use of visual supports, including nonverbal gestures, while some respond better to auditory supports. If a student seems to be stuck on a particular Step, it is very important to modify the program and identify what the barrier is so the student can continue progressing in his or her use of communication. If students are not progressing, it is our responsibility as their instructors to determine how we can help them progress and move forward. Rita Dunn wrote, “If a child is not learning the way you are teaching, then you must teach in the way the child learns” (Bruetsch, 1998). It should never be determined that the student simply can’t do it. It is up to us as their teachers, therapists, parents, and advocates to keep on trying until comprehensive communication is achieved.