More Shoebox Play Tips: Teaching Core Vocabulary EAT!

Your student picks up the toy and sets it back down again. Maybe he lines them up or maybe she tries to roll them before ignoring them entirely. Since we know that developing children's play skills is vital for expanding cognitive skills needed for communication growth, what is an SLP to do?

With neurotypical children, the goal of therapy is to develop as many of the missing skills as possible and expand them upward towards a higher chronological age level.

Tips for how to teach core vocabulary across multiple skill areas.
Working with kids on the autism spectrum, it may be more useful to think of therapy goals as advancing one functional skill as broadly as possible.

Developing a deep understanding of a skill or idea and as broad of functional, expressive use of the skill in many different contexts helps the child with autism to be better able to generalize skills.

The photos in this post show one way to start with a basic set of vocabulary words, determine a symbol level to use, and bring the vocabulary into basic sentence structure.



Add some pragmatics, like requesting, commenting and 'no,' to build in functional communicative uses.

Bring in some literacy and play skills using the same words. You have given your student the visual equivalent of word association skills, building word knowledge and use, adding a slightly expanded skill to the base you started with.

This way, while you are building your student's communicative skills, you are also maintaining what was learned and expanding skills in a way that only adds one new piece at a time. Working in little chunks makes learning less intimidating and frustrating; more achievable and successful.

Would you want to go straight to the final in your most demanding class or learn each step a little at a time?

Tips for how to teach core vocabulary across multiple skill areas.
Try basing as many of your therapy goals as possible around a functional core word.  This post demonstrates a way to build skills based around the core verb ‘eat.’



Start with a set of toys and a nice sturdy box to visually show how to play. 

Shoeboxes are great, but any sturdy box can do!




Determining symbol level
You also have to determine the symbol level the student understands so that you can add communication skills to the play task.

This photo shows a way to use a ravioli plastic and play food in a simple matching activity. The symbols are at varied levels, from cut out photos or TOBIs (True Object Based Icons that show the object’s shape,) to photos, and then symbols.

When asked to ‘match’ the fruits, the student is likely to choose the most meaningful symbol for matching.


Determining symbol level
In this example, the student matched the play fruit to the TOBIs, so that is the type of communication symbol I would use in the activity.

Another matching activity to try out is to have the student match the toy fruits to the real versions. 

Toys are easier to use in play activities, but students need to understand that the plastic banana represents a real banana for the concept of ‘eat’ to be developed.


determining symbol level


Notice that this student correctly matched the fruits to the icons, including matching the purple grape toy to the green grape icon rather than the purple grape photo. 

This shows a higher level of symbolism than in the last example.







determining symbol level
If this student understood the direction, “Match.” and this result is typical, it seems that the student is not yet at a symbolic level.  Assessing if the student uses actual objects correctly and working on developing a symbolic communication system for basic desires may be the way to go at this point in time.

Students who don’t comprehend any pictorial symbol system may benefit from using an object system, such as using a spoon to request cereal.


determining symbol level
Here you can see the box that has been decorated with a hungry child who has a huge mouth cut open to place foods inside to feed him.

Pointing at the symbols as you say them, whether they are paper symbols or symbols on an AAC device, is a vital teaching method for students using AAC. Seeing the symbols as the word is said can help the student assign meaning to the verbal words, as well as modeling how to express the ideas.



Determining symbol level

To build expressive communication skills, have the student point at each symbol in order as you say the sentence.

This is a strategy to help build joint attention. The student should be looking where he is pointing, and hearing the word said verbally as he points to the symbol can help him learn to connect the oral word with the symbol.



Checking discrimination
To check comprehension and symbol discrimination, occasionally make sure to tell the student, “Take it.” and offer them an array of food toys after reading the sentence aloud. 

If they correctly discriminate the symbols, they will take the food toy that they chose to finish the sentence.

As students become more familiar with the activity and more adept at formulating sentences, students can have access to all of the foods to feed the shoebox kid one food at a time.

Adding varied communicative functions


Either immediately before or after feeding the shoebox kid, the student can formulate a sentence to tell what the kid ate. Notice that this fulfills a different communicative function! 

Instead of filling in the last food as a way of requesting what to feed the toy, the student is now formulating a complete phrase to comment on what was/will be eaten.



Teaching no
When your students understand and produce basic sentences around the core word ‘eat’, don’t be too quick to move on only to a new core word. Think about how else this skill can be used in a different context to deepen word knowledge.

In this photo, you see an activity that works on the core word ‘eat’ in a different communicative context- learning that sometimes we don’t or can’t eat even if we want to. This reinforces and gives continued practice to the core word ‘eat’ even if other activities in the session are introducing a new core word.


Moving to 2D play
As students become more skilled at using 3D objects in play, start fading the shoebox if the student has the motor skills to manipulate toys without the stability the box provides.

As you move on to teaching new core words, it is important to continue to review and expand the previously learned skill sets. Maybe the student enjoys this familiar play activity now and might request it for a work break.




Building sentences in play
Maybe it is time to expand the activity to a higher symbolic level with a 2D version of the concepts. 

When a student is able to enjoy and participate in paper play activities, adapted books are great materials to use in therapy! 




Adding adaptive books


Reading a book and then playing an associated activity is a great technique for reinforcing the language and plot of the story.

This photo shows the cover of a simple adapted book that starts students using the core word 'eat' in sentences to communicate about varied foods.

Use their favorites to make skills functional


Notice that initially, the symbol for 'eat' is in a field of 3 with familiar non-food symbols to help the student discriminate easily. Errorless learning is a good way to go!

Helping your students make sentences to share information about their favorites is a great way to keep their attention and build functional skills!







Increasing symbol discrimination demands
When students master a step, build the difficulty incrementally, depending on the student's learning rate. This photo shows an additional verb symbol being added in place of one of the object symbols.

Moving the symbols around helps the student keep scanning, but new studies show that competent communicators using an AAC device express themselves more fluidly by using the location of the symbol on the device rather than always scanning the page.


Varying the symbols in adapted books
Now the adapted book has 'eat' as a choice along with 2 other verbs. One looks similar to 'eat' and the other is different in appearance, making discrimination easier than using 3 very similar action symbols. 

Many students do not need this level of discrete steps to make progress, but if you have a student who is becoming frustrated you may need to build skills in incremental steps such as these.



More shoebox play ideas from Looks Like Language!

I was so excited to be featured on The Speechie Show! I wrote this post to give you some more ideas about the shoebox play I discussed on the show.

If you missed it, you can see me live here!

If you are looking for more shoebox play ideas, click here for car play and here for playground ideas.

Many thanks to Barbara Bloomfield for getting me started. Rest in Peace.

3 Fun Activities for Valentine's Day!

Valentine's Day is just around the corner, so maybe you are looking for some fun activities with that theme! I have a lot to share today!

First, I've joined with a group of my SLP friends to host a Wishlist Giveaway! You know how that TpT wishlist just keeps getting longer, and somehow we can never get it all?

Well, maybe you will be one of the lucky winners in this contest! The Rafflecopter link is at the end of the post. But, HURRY! It ends tonight!


3 fun, free games for Valentine's Day at Looks Like Language!
Next, how about a trio of freebies? The choices cover different ages and levels, so hopefully there is something here with your name on it!


Boom Cards

Your littles will have fun helping Teddy plan his Valentine's Day party by finding the items that go with the holiday. If you haven't tried Boom Learning yet, you should! You drag the answer in this game, and it bounces back to give you another turn if you were wrong! Click here to try it out!


Open Ended Valentine's Fun 


This free packet at TpT is a must have. You can work on any skill while playing games to help the monsters get the right colored Valentine's Day card, or while playing the printable game. Get it here!


Social Skills Conversation Hearts

These activities are built to be adaptable for varied age and skill level groups. You can even add the conversation hearts candy into the mix to spice up some interest! Having a quick and easy fun activity that works for mixed groups is a lifesaver when you have one of those days when the coffee just isn't kicking in! Get it here

Newly Updated!

I hope you have been getting notices to let you know when I have updated older products! It would be a shame if you missed out on the extra pages and prettier clipart you get with each update!

Activities for differentiated instruction with homophones at Looks Like Language!
This week, I updated Homophones for Valentine's Day and year round. It now includes more worksheets, heart themed homework pages, file folder activities and listening activities for improving inferring from sentence context! Check it out, or re-download it, here!

WISHLIST GIVEAWAY ends Friday, February 9 at midnight. Join the contest now!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tips for Getting Started with Autism Effectively

Talking about ways to help our children with autism on Carrie Clark's The Speechie Show was a blast! If you didn't catch me live, you can watch the replay on her blog. I show you some of my most favorite visuals and when I would use each!

So, if you are new to my site, welcome! And if you've been here for a while, I'm thrilled that you are reading my blog as a regular!
Free visuals and tips for effective use! Looks Like Language on the Speechie Show!

I hope that you signed up for my Getting Started with Autism Free Guide. If you lost the link, just click here
Once you've signed up with your email, you will have immediate access. I promise to keep your email private!

As a special bonus, I've added a free download of a choice board to add to your set of visuals!  It will come in my next newsletter for all of you who have joined me. 



Get started with Autism free guide from Looks Like Language
Since I truly believe in visuals, I wanted to provide you with a blog post that summarizes the main tips I have for how to use them. See, we all need visuals! 

Tip: If you haven't read my post on questions to ask yourself to start problem solving behaviors, you might want to start here.


Tips for Determining Symbol Level

* Visuals are a great asset, but they need to be taught. They are not an automatic cure. Start with basics and expand from there.

* When teaching a visual system, that is the new skill. Whatever you are having the child do during this instruction should be something that is easy and already learned.

* You need to be sure that you are using the level of symbols that your student understands: objects, photos, icons or words.

* Doing a trial of matching the symbol to the object is one way to start assessing the student's comprehension of the symbol level.

* For students who use pointing boards, AAC or PECs exchanges, you can try having alternative symbol levels available and see which type they use to request. It is usually safe to assume that children will choose what they understand and are comfortable with.

* Another way is to let them request and tell them "Take it." Did the symbol they used to request match the item they took? You know that they took what wanted!

Where to Start

Shoebox play skills for autism- tips from Looks Like Language!
1. If your low functioning students are new to visuals, the best place to start is with an activity that has 'all done' built in, so that the way to do the task and how to know it is completed is built right into the task.

One idea is to use work tasks, like puzzles, sorting or placing clips on cards. Students see what to do and know the job is done when all the pieces are used up. The task disappears and some type of reinforcement is given.

But how to add language based skills into this?
I used a variety of play tasks with a shoebox to help my students develop realistic play using common objects, with symbols to support the language. You can see more about this one in this post.

Using token boards- Getting Started with Autism at Looks Like Language

2. Using token boards, like those you got in the Getting Started with Autism Guide, is the next step for showing students how much work is expected and when they will be done. Students need to have some symbolic communication skills for token boards, since they request what they want to work for, and the tokens symbolize a piece of the task that they are completing.

If your students have limited attending skills, only use the number of tokens that they can handle successfully. Really! Even if it only one token. (Just place all but one of them in the picture, leaving the last token in the lower right hand bottom corner for them to finish before getting their request.) And don't forget to make the activity a simple one, even an enjoyable one! Keep it positive and work on increasing the amount of work they can complete at one time. 


How to use a First-Then board- Getting Started with Autism at Looks Like Language

3. A First-Then board is useful when students can do a complete activity. First, they do the work you are requesting of them, then they get their choice. Again, when first using a new visual, keep the requested work short and easy so that they can experience what the new visual means in a positive way.

Even when students are capable of using longer schedules, a First-Then board can be useful to help a student get through some hard work. We are all willing to put in more effort on a difficult task if we know that it is for a short time, followed by a rewarding break. Coffee, anyone?


Using visual schedules in speech therapy- Getting Started with Autism

4.  Visual Schedules help students see what is coming next, reducing anxiety and showing them what they need to do to get their break.  When students can use first/then boards with two activities in the 'First' section, you can start with a visual schedule. 

There are generic symbol cards in the free download, but you may do better introducing a visual schedule with photos of familiar activities that you student knows how to do. For example, the schedule might show: puzzle, bubbles, students' request, book, play dough, student's request. To learn the schedule, the activities are easy and the breaks are frequent.

I love having the all done pocket on a schedule so that students can check their schedule and place the completed activity in the pocket.  Done= out of sight! Read more in this post.

If you just place a schedule on the wall and don't teach its meaning, it is just a bunch of paper on the wall! The same goes for all of the visual supports that can be so helpful, so be sure to take the time to make them meaningful for your students!

I hoped this helped you to be able to start effectively using your free Getting Started with Autism Guide! Any questions? Comment here, or email me at lookslikelanguage@gmail.com, and I will do my best to help you out!

Enjoy!

Snowman Color Matching Freebie 3

Get the last part of the snowman themed freebie at Looks Like Language!
It's winter this year even in places that are usually warm, so be sure to take advantage of it to use a snowman theme!

Your final section of this open ended freebie is ready for downloading! Just click here!

When I worked with preschoolers, I loved burying small toys or pictured items in a container of packing peanuts to pretend we were digging in the snow. 

An off key version of a changed stanza from the dwarves "Heigh Ho!" song often accompanied taking turns with the (sand) shovel.




The Original:


"We dig dig dig dig dig dig dig in our mine the whole day through.
To dig dig dig dig dig dig dig is what we really like to do."

My Version:

(Name) dig dig dig dig dig dig digs the snow until the turn is done.
He/she dig dig dig dig dig dig digs. I wonder what he/she found?"

What is your favorite snow activity?

Exciting News at Looks Like Language!

Do you ever feel like the list of things you need to do is unmanageable? And then, how happy and relieved do you feel when you accomplish something on that list?

Then, celebrate with me!

First, I am so excited to have my Speech and Language Activities: Roll It, Say It, Write It! featured in the TpT newsletter! You can get it here.







Check out the new Boom Cards internet no prep, no print activities at Looks Like Language!
Next, I have been thinking for a long time about how I could make some no prep, no print materials that  are interactive, fun and easy to use (and also did not require me to jump through hoops to learn a complicated technology.)

I’m thrilled to have found a solution!  I am starting to incorporate quick and easy Boom Learning card sets into my printable sets, so you can have the best of both worlds! I just hope that you are as excited as I am when you try out my free and preview sets. My sets let your students drag the right answers on the page, and give them another chance if they make a mistake. So fun!

Give BOOM Cards a try!

Get your free no print, no prep internet activity set for mixed groups at Looks Like Language now!
Kids are sure to have fun with this interactive car themed activity that incorporates words with ’R’ sounds for articulation practice, WH questions and categories. Get the answer right to power up your car!

Download it here.



You can also try out free trials of paid activities to see if they are right for you.

Get your free trial and spread a little kindness! Looks Like Language!
How about spreading some kindness? There are two levels that coordinate with my matching printable set.

Acts of kindness is a picture level set for students to find the kind action and drag it to their kindness plate to fill it up with some yummy cupcakes.



Get a free trial of interactive learning for emotions vocabulary at Looks Like Language!
Working on vocabulary for emotions and character traits to help your students discuss kind and unkind actions? Try the free trial of Vocabulary for Acts of Kindness (requires some reading.)



After you’ve given them a try, I’d love for you to provide feedback at my store as a thank you!

Enjoy! Linda

Snowman Color Matching Freebie 2

Get your free snowman themed open ended game set at Looks Like Language!
It's another freebie Friday again! Amazing how the time flies by when you are very busy!

I wanted to share my newest adventure with you- Boom Learning Cards! 

I only have a few decks so far, but I love the interactive learning fun that they provide. I had been trying to figure out for a long time  how to make some of my activities interactive for students without you having to print, laminate and cut. I think you will find this option exciting! You can play these decks on your tablets, computers or SmartBoards!


Check out my free deck at Boom Learning!
Read the blurb at the bottom of the page and use the link to check it out my freebie there.

I have one free deck so far, and will try to make this freebie into a Boom card deck sometime this month, so check back soon.



In the meantime, here is the download for this week's freebie. 

Preview my free Boom Learning set by clicking the Boom icon.


What do I need to know about Boom Learning?
This works for following the link to my preview as well.

"With your Teachers Pay Teachers purchase, users new to Boom Learning get a three-month free trial of student progress reporting for up to 150 students. Your trial includes the ability to make up to 5 free DIY decks. You may upgrade or cancel at any time. Boom Cards play on modern browsers (released in the last three years) on interactive whiteboards, computers and tablets. Boom Cards apps are also available. Not sure if your browser is modern enough? Try a free Boom Cards deck first. When you redeem your purchase, Boom Learning opens an account for you if you do not already have one. If you do not subscribe at the end of your trial, you will be able to continue using Boom Cards with the Fast Play feature. Fast Play does not track individual progress. If you do not subscribe we will delete your student records 3 months after the expiration of the trial to protect student privacy."

Snowman Color Matching Freebie

Match a snowman! Have fun with this freebie from Looks Like Language!
If you live on the East coast, you will agree that the weather this week is only fit for snowmen! Brrr! 

I updated the Snowman Color Match Freebie just in time for you to have a quick, open ended matching game for after the snow day(s).

Sign up for my newsletter if you'd love to have the whole packet at once. It will go out on Sunday!




A fun winter snowman activity set from Looks Like Language!
If you'd like some more fun activities for your snowman theme, take a look at the Snowman Color Match WH Question Activities at my store.

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