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TeachNet NYC: Lesson Plans
Holiday Shopping with the Nonverbal Child


Holiday shopping can be frustrating for parents of a nonverbal child. This program teaches the nonverbal child about winter holidays from various cultures, while encouraging their powers of expression.

The teacher prepares a basic lesson about Christmas, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, and other ethnic/religious winter holidays, and about letter writing to Santa. Each student will receive a teacher-made letter to Santa. (If the student is unable to write, the teacher will fill in the answers.) 

The teacher collects various catalogs that display high-interest items for the age group they are working with and makes a list of the corresponding Web sites and bookmarks them for easy access. The student is shown catalogs until attention is focused on an item, and is then asked if he/she likes the item. If the student says or nonverbally indicates yes, add it to a list. When the list is complete, bring the student to the computer and show him or her the corresponding Web site. Many items will be pictured in a thumbnail-size photo and will be enlarged when clicked on. The student then often shows more excitement.

The student will be presented with this same task for three consecutive sessions in order to determine accuracy and consistency of choices made. When this is determined, the list and a copy of the related Web sites will be sent home to parents.


Participants can be special education students from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Three periods are required. The teacher must be familiar with the Internet and word processing software. Students must be able to maintain focus in order to either type a Web address or scroll through pages of an on-line catalog. They need the ability to use a mouse to click on a picture/word of a desired item.

Software materials used include the Mayer-Johnson Boardmaker, Microsoft Word, and a browser for the World Wide Web.


Michelle Flammia is a teacher of the speech and hearing handicapped. She works with elementary autistic students as well as elementary mentally retarded/emotionally disturbed students. This is her seventh year teaching. She is also a TeachNet mentor.


When showing catalogs to nonverbal students, they often point, stare, or show other forms of interest in at least one item. This item can be considered what they may want for Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanza. These catalogs are also often linked to a consumer Web site, for example: www.etoys.com . Since many parents own personal computers and are on-line, they can browse the Web site with their child and begin holiday shopping. (Students will be able to visit the Web site in school with the teacher as well as at home with their parents.)


The program integrates technology into the curriculum, and encourages literacy.


If you have students whose parents are not on-line at home, invite them to your school during a scheduled session with their child and explore the site together. The parents will appreciate the time and effort of this project as well as appreciate the amount of frustration that will be reduced during their holiday shopping.

Michelle Flammia
Michelle Flammia is a teacher of the speech and hearing handicapped. She works with elementary autistic students in Bayside, New York 

Subject Area: AAC (Alternative Augmentative Communication)

Grade Level: Elementary Autistic - can be used with all nonverbal students

E-mail: MISHL5150@AOL.COM

School: P.S. 224 @ P.S. 710


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