Sonoma County Office of Education

Teachable Moment: Nikki Thompson uses evidence-based practices with her preschool students

01/29/2020 -

It’s clear that Nikki Thompson loves teaching preschool at El Colegio. “You never know what the kids will bring each day,” smiles Thompson. “They’re funny and lively and challenging, just all of it! Now they’re experiencing spring fever early. We’re two months too early, but that’s ok!”


Thompson has taught students with autism at El Colegio for the past eight years and has taught in SCOE special education programs since 1999. She credits Jenny March and Natasha Scott, her classroom aides, as invaluable in the classroom. “They make a solid team. We’ve been together for seven years and I know I can count on Jenny and Natasha and they know they can count on me.”

“In the classroom we employ all evidence-based practices such as Applied Behavior Analysis, Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS), Pivotal Response Training, and Visual Supports,” said Thompson. “At the language station we work on a lot of concepts; empty, full, above, below, together, apart; along with answering ‘Wh’ questions and retelling stories.”

Thompson also teaches students basic requesting skills using their voice or PECS. “With PECS they can build a sentence,” explained Thompson. “They have binders that have pictures in them so they will move the pictures and put them on a strip and hand it to you and point to it and we say the words.”

Thompson had a student a few years ago that when he first came into the classroom he could not sit down. “He had no language, he’d stand on the tables, he would actually crash into things,” shared Thompson. “He had such a hard time making his way through this world. It was the first year of our program where we were employing evidence-based practices and even I wasn’t sure how this was going to work.”

“So we taught him the visual schedule, how to use PECS, how to sit at a table and do work,” said Thompson. “I had him for two years and by the time he left here he could tell you what he wanted, follow a schedule, do his work, and he would model for other students. He ended up going to a district and is doing well. It was nice to know that even though I wasn’t sure how this program was going to work, he was the ‘proof in the pudding’. Look at how his life has completely changed."