People with autism often communicate in different ways, and Ricky has some of the most unique ways of communicating at Little City. Ricky, a 17-year-old student at ChildBridge Center for Education, has become known for his special ways of expressing his feelings. He may high-five you, hug you or in what has become the school-favorite, touch foreheads with you.
“He touched foreheads with me about three days after I first started working with him and it was really special,” said Meaghan Grap, Ricky’s special education teacher. “He just has this warmness to him and can say so much with his eyes and his smile.”
When it comes to communication, Ricky stands out even at school. While many students thrive with communicating through tablets and technology, Ricky has used a combination of static boards and a Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Both the static board and PECS are systems built on visual cues.
Ricky can either point to a picture on the board or hand a small card with a picture on it to staff to communicate what he wants or is thinking or feeling. In his three years at the school, Ricky has made tremendous progress in using those communication tools to express himself and regulate his emotions. The most recent example is also the most telling as Ricky seamlessly transitioned to a new classroom and new routine after returning to school under COVID regulations.
“When he first came here, Ricky absolutely would have had behaviors with how big of a change we had coming back to school,” Meaghan said. “He’s able to adjust very well because of the prep and knowing about the change and our ability to communicate those things to him. It’s been really nice to watch.”
Ricky has about four more years at ChildBridge during which time his social worker, Robert Rigali said communication would continue to be the focus. He has shown the tools necessary to transition to Little City’s adult programming and even potentially work in maintenance or clerical fields if his skills continue to develop as they have been.
“It was hard for him to adapt to change when he first came, but this year alone he has shown an incredible ability to adjust and pick up on new routines,” Robert said. “We’ve seen far fewer struggles as the years have gone by, so the goal is to keep working on his communication and his ability to express himself to others.”