Written by Nancy Volante
I was working in a class in Manhattan with primarily non-verbal students, alongside the classroom teacher and paraprofessionals. We prepared our EASE lesson around exploration and movement using the “Scarf Activity” from the EASE curriculum.
The teacher and I started the class at the table with small scarves so that the students could experience the scarves as a sensory activity first and then integrate the process of exploration and following simple directions. We used gestures to give directions instead of verbal instructions, kinesthetically directing the students in a playful exploration with the scarves.
The students were very engaged and motivated as they learned and playfully expressed delight with the scarves. Next we took the movement exploration away from the table, where each student would take a turn sitting in a chair. The classroom teacher and paraprofessional held a large scarf at each end, and they lifted it up and down over the student’s head. Each student had to wait for her turn, which stays true to the EASE philosophy. Waiting for your turn cultivates respect for peers, which is an important aspect of socialization.
We continued our movement exploration and went from sitting in the chairs to standing in the middle of the classroom. The students began to dance under the scarf. This was initiated on their own in a very orderly fashion. Eventually, the students all ended up together under the scarf and enjoyed their newfound collaboration. The classroom transformed. We were all engaged in the self- expression of three non-verbal students with autism who were clearly communicating and socializing through their gestures, movements, and facial expressions. At the end, one of the paraprofessionals said, “Jose was reaching, pulling, and touching with an abundant amount of engaged self-expression with the scarves. The participation I saw him display was remarkable. He did all the work.”