Copperas Cove ISD school introduces new tool to develop students’ communication skills

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 7:25 AM CDT
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COPPERAS COVE, Texas (KWTX) - A Copperas Cove ISD elementary school kicked off the year with new tools to advance students’ communication skills.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, about one of 10 children nationwide struggle with several types of communication skills, including recognizing other people’s emotions.

CCISD’s House Creek Elementary is helping students with disabilities learn these skills every week with a special tool.

It’s a mirror with several cards attached that show different facial expressions. The students flip a card up, and the teacher then asks the student to show the emotion displayed on the card.

“I was asking the emotion that’s on the image, and I wanted them to make the face,” House Creek Elementary life skills teacher, Jamie Piper, said. “Then, tell me the emotion again to see if they really realize what the face they’re making is connected to words.”

She said this exercise helps students recognize nonverbal social cues to help them communicate with others better.

“It’s important for them to learn their own and, also, others’ because, if somebody has an angry face, it could be dangerous,” Piper said. “Happy faces--’Oh, I can help you out.’ Like in a school setting, we try to have all happy faces, so our kids can feel welcome and respected in our classrooms.”

She said students learning these facial expressions will help them communicate with other children at school outside of the special education classroom.

“Because they do go to ‘out class,’ I want them to be able to, at recess, if they see a friend that’s sad, they can go over there and communicate with that feeling when doing their non-verbals, or they can communicate with them using verbals,” Piper said. “I want them to be able to go in the cafeteria and communicate, ‘Oh, this person is sad, instead of always trying to run from it.”

Piper requested the communication tool from the special education director because she wanted to provide a daily exercise for students who struggle with communicating.

The exercise is similar to an exercise a speech therapist would encourage during a session.

About 50% of children receive speech therapy services, but most do not go to speech pathologists every day. Piper said, because they have the tool at the school, they can practice this exercise every day with students to improve their communication skills at a faster rate.

Piper said, after about two weeks of exercises, she already noticed progress.

“At first, so they all showed that ‘I’m scared, I don’t want to look in the mirror face,’” she said. “So, as we kept doing it...they’re getting more comfortable in saying the words and what they’re doing.”

She even said that students interact with each other more in reference to the exercise, asking each other to show the different faces on the cards.

“Watching them come in and say, ‘hi, Miss Piper, I’m happy today,’” she said. “They’re able to express their emotions.”

With more repetition of the activity during the school year, she is excited to see how much her students progress in their communication skills.