6 Thought Provoking Tips for Planning Autism Therapy

Yes, you can take lessons learned from hiking and apply them to planning goals for autism therapy! But before we get into that, let me reassure you that I am not an exercise diva.

Planning autism therapy with some hiking insights! Looks Like Language
Every summer, for many years now, I’ve climbed Mount Pemi as my husband warmed up for the 4,000 footers he climbs. This year, I was pondering what I’ve learned over the years of watching my family look like nimble mountain goats compared to me. 

As I thought about it, I realized these ideas work for planning therapy steps for autism as well.

1. Have a goal in mind

Hiking:  It is that beautiful view that keeps me going. When the climbing gets rough and I am working hard, I know it is worth it!

Autism:  We need to have that beautiful end goal in mind for our students to make all of their hard work worth it!

2. Look a bit ahead to make plans

Hiking: I realized a while ago that looking straight down at where I currently stood  was not the most efficient way to go.  Climbing works much better when I look a bit ahead, plan a path, and trust that my feet will take me there.


Autism: Look at and document where the student is right now, but progress is only made when you look ahead a bit to where you want them to be, and plan a path to get them there.

3. Sometimes you need little steps

Hiking: On the flatter sections, I can keep a steady pace. But sometimes it gets rocky, and little steps are necessary to get me through. Sometimes, I need to look around and modify the path I thought I wanted to go on.

Autism: When learning stalls, or behaviors emerge, smaller steps are needed in the activities to keep your student moving along the path. Sometimes you need to take another look at that path you planned. If it isn’t working, modify it!

4. Stop to take a break

Hiking: I get hot and out of breath after a steep section, so I need to stop and rest a bit. While I am catching my breath, it is good to look around and enjoy my surroundings!

Autism: Our students work hard for every accomplishment.  After they have achieved even a small step, stop to take a break. Review some easier tasks. Stop and enjoy something fun!

5. Enjoy the view!

Hiking: Reward yourself for your hard work. Look all around to see the beautiful view and enjoy it! You worked hard to get there so don’t focus on the next mountain you want to climb.

Autism: Reinforce your student for the hard work! Look all around you to figure out ways to help your student apply the skills in functional tasks. Make sure they can enjoy and use the new skill in as many ways as possible before attacking another skill.

6. Don’t compare!

Hiking: I took a heck of a lot longer to get up the mountain than the guy I saw jogging his way up. But, my view was just as beautiful!

Autism: Some students need so many more steps to get to that final goal than others do, but once they can do the task, it can be even more beautiful!

Finally, I wouldn’t climb a mountain if the view wasn’t worth it.
Don’t make your students climb a mountain if the outcome isn’t functional and worth all of their efforts!

P.S. Here’s the view!

Is your therapy outcome worth the work? Autism tips from Looks Like Language

Did you get the free Getting Started with Autism Guide yet? Check it out by clicking here! Don't miss this helpful freebie!

5 Reasons to Assess (and improve) Narrative Skills

Checking students' narrative skills is on the top of my list for back to school assessments! Whether you do this orally or in a written format, there is so much information you can gain to help your students make progress over the year! Why do this routinely?

Many speech/language skills are incorporated in narratives.


5 reasons you should be assessing the narrative skills of your students.
Beside the fact that this is an essential basic skill for conversations, discussion and writing, you can see:

1. how well they retrieve and organize 
information while staying on topic.

2. if there are word finding issues.

3. what is their level of sentence 
complexity.

4. if there are grammatical errors.

5. how well they carried over skills 
from the previous year, including 
articulation or fluency skills.


Being able to tell a narrative is necessary for school success.


If your students are not able to relate familiar events in a sequential, understandable manner, how will they develop the discourse skills necessary for classroom discussions and written work?

Getting Started with Narratives

There are so many ways to get started, but here are a few of my favorites. Whichever method you choose to use, remember to save your students' first attempts so you can see their progress over the year.

Tell a Story

First, of course, check to make sure that our students can relate a personal experience. Why not do this using your computer?

If your school uses Macs, this is quick and easy to do! Let your students think about what story they want to tell. The less input you give, the more natural their story will be.

It is easy to record a student narrative on a Mac!
Then, open up QuickTime on your computer, following the steps in the photo.


Your students can make a movie of their story and QuickTime lets you save it! What a fantastic pre/post assessment!






Maybe your students need some guidance.


Try these ways to work on student narrative skills from Looks Like Language!
What I did over my summer vacation is a school standard, but how about this idea that I found at Activity Tailor? Telling what you didn't do over the summer has a nice twist, keeping your students engaged and letting them be creative! You also will see right away if they understand negatives.

Maybe your students would like creating their own comic strips. Mine loved Make Beliefs Comix! You can save their creations on your computer, or even print their strip to let them write the narrative for it.

Create a Story


Use unusual photos to spark a story!
Can your students create a story when given a topic? Teachers use story starters all the time, but I like using unusual photos. There are so many sites, just try searching words like ‘unusual’, ‘strange’ and ‘weird’ photos to find some that appeal to you.

Retell a Story


Creating and retelling stories in speech/language therapy.
Book reports are a classic way that teachers use story retell. Help your students practice doing this with online sites that have quick stories to read and retell.

Younger kids may like the ones here.
And how about stories written by kids? You will find many choices for all ages at StoryBird.

Making Stories More Descriptive



You can use online story sites for other speech/language goals, too!
Maybe you have some students in your group who have basic narrative skills. Don’t leave them out! There are ways to incorporate other speech/language goals into stories, too!

Build vocabulary and parts of speech using photos at PicLits. Work on descriptive skills with the stories at Fun English Games. Of course, you can find ways to work on carryover of articulation skills at these sites, too!


Using online resources builds technology skills, too.


Are books a vital part of your planning? I can't imagine doing without the physical format, personally, but teaching your students internet literacy is just as important. If you teach students from disadvantaged homes, they may not have the same level of access to computers, so they especially need it included in every aspect of school life to gain digital skills.

Using online books and stories also lets us see if our students engage with them before purchasing the book. YouTube is a wonderful resource for checking out books before you buy them.

There are so many fun, free websites at all levels of skill that can help you improve your students' narrative skills with a little planning! Check out this post to get even more ideas.

If you need to justify this use of your time to school administrators, check out the results of this study by Ron Owston et al.  In their study called Computer game development as a literacy activity, they found that "Field notes and teacher interview data indicated that game development helped improve student content retention, ability to compare and contrast information presented, utilize more and different kinds of research materials including digital resources, editing skills, and develop an insight into questioning skills."

What are your favorite resources for books and narrative skills?
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