Matching Materials to Goals

When selecting materials and activities for a learner, it is important to begin by creating a profile of the individual.  This includes an assessment that identifies what the child is able to do in various areas, a learning media assessment or identification of the preferred sensory channels, and a list of learner preferences.  This profile should be created by the people who know the learner best, including families and caregivers, as well as teachers and therapists. Once the profile has been created, the team should then discuss priorities and create collaborative goals to address the identified needs. 

Selecting Materials

In order to select appropriate materials and activities, the teacher or other adult should be familiar with what the materials do and what properties they have.  This can then be aligned with the learner’s profile to determine which materials will be most effective in addressing goals.  For example, if a learner is just beginning to grasp materials, it is important to think about the size of the items, what they are made of (e.g. are they slippery?  easy to hold on to?)

Sample Materials

Trisha Borg from Narbethong State Special School has shared a list of materials she has been using with some of her students, along with some of the goals that can be addressed by using them.

I made this as a one-handed grasping activity for a student I have hoping that the crinkle reflective paper may encourage him to use his other hand or visually attend to the stimulus.

Mylar is crinkled and attached to a stick.
Mylar is crinkled and attached to a stick.

Suction toys in a heavy metal baking tray that require various amount of strength to “pull off” the tray. 1-2 handed game that works on finger and hand strength, grasping, finger isolation.

Metal tray with various suction cup toys.
Metal tray with various suction cup toys.

Various bottle brushes can be placed inside various containers for the child to use two hands to separate. Note the variety in the brushes and containers. 

Bottle brushes inside various containers.
Bottle brushes inside various containers.

Plastic buckets have lids with large holes taped on them and net bags inside. Each net has a distinctive color and the handles attached have a different feel. I can hold the bucket for the child to pull or some children may be able to use two hands to manipulate these toys. They may be attached to a Position Board.

Plastic buckets have lids with holes that has netting sticking out.
Plastic buckets have lids with holes that has netting sticking out.
 
 

We’re trying out a high contrast position board to see if students engage better visually. Most of our position boards are currently white, and we’d like to find out if they engage more when there is a black background.

High-contrast items on black boards.
High-contrast items on black boards.

Early two-handed open and close box game with lids attached to each box so they can easily be re-found by students.

Various sized boxes with attached lids allow a child to practice putting on and taking off lids.
Various sized boxes with attached lids allow a child to practice putting on and taking off lids.

Grasping and pulling activities are great to develop hand strength. I used a metal board with magnetic blocks for this activity.

Metal boards with magnetic items encourage pulling to develop hand strength..
Metal boards with magnetic items encourage pulling to develop hand strength.

In this activity I created a Position Board with a variety of beads, string, chains, and ribbon with holes in it. The slim profiles are easily grasped.

Position board with chains, Mardi Gras beads, fabric, string of beads hanging vertically
Position board with chains, Mardi Gras beads, fabric, string of beads hanging vertically