Showing posts with label Communication and Life Skills. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Communication and Life Skills. Show all posts

5 Tips for Sensory Issues and Summer Fireworks

Going to a fireworks display in the summer can be a great family outing! 

That is unless a member of the family has sensory processing issues and sensitivity to noises. While commonly found in children with autism spectrum disorders, other kids may have this problem, too. 


If your child covers their ears when a fire alarm goes off, or a loud vehicle drives by, going to see fireworks may not be the happy event you were hoping for.


July free download from Looks Like Language
There's a new social rules story, quick to print, staple and read, that I've made to help you out. Just click here.

No guarantee that this will make your fireworks event problem free, but knowing what to expect, having a coping method ready, and having the language to discuss any issues that arise are strategies that help over time.


If you are intrigued by the craft and games that are not part of this free download, be sure to sign up for my special 2019 free growing games bundle offer here!





July free download from Looks Like Language
Having back up plans as parents can be helpful, too. Some ideas that could be helpful include:

* watching your child with sensory issues for the beginning signs of sensory overload. Intervening early is often more successful than waiting for full-blown overload.


* having a signal your child can give you to tell you that they have had enough.

* getting seating that is toward the back of the crowd. This may not only somewhat decrease the noise level from the fireworks, but can also reduce the overcrowdedness that can also be a problem for some children.

* having a larger blanket than you need so that your child has a place to sit with boundaries that keep crowds further away.

* coming with 2 cars so one parent can leave earlier if needed, or having a plan for one parent to remove the sensory child before overload occurs to the car. Have calming toys, blankets, headphones, or whatever works for your child to use during the wait.

If your child regularly has problems with sensory processing issues, get an appointment for an evaluation with an occupational therapist who is knowledgeable about the problem. That is where most of my knowledge comes from!

I also found this book to be extremely helpful when I read it many years ago. It is written in a way that is helpful to parents and educators.

I hope that some of these ideas help to make your 4th of July fun and calm!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game- Week 3

Hey there, baseball fans! There's still time to have some open ended fun before the season ends!


Free, fun open ended color matching freebie from Looks Like Language!
Catch the newest section of the freebie and have some fun with it! The third section is available to download here.


Fall is a colorful time to build colorful words! Make nixed level groups easier!
Speaking of newest, did you see my newest adapted bool multiple activity set for Fall mixed level groups? 

It builds describing skills using literacy activities and games. Check it out! Click here!


3 Tips to Help Children Handle 'NO'


How in the world do you teach children to accept ‘no’? While this is not always an easy task, these tips will surely help if you use them!

no, temper, tantrum, meltdown, choice boards
My friend, Lisette, over at Speech Sprouts, asked what I did to help kids understand and accept 'no'. It takes a lot of work and very few 2-3 year-olds will easily accept 'no' for something they truly want! But there are some strategies you can use to help kids start moving along the path to accepting ‘no.’

Don’t ask a yes/no question! Give choices instead.


Be careful how you word your questions! Asking a child, “Do you want A ?” implies that you are asking them for their wishes. This leaves it open for them to say, “No, I want B.” when B is not an option. Then you have to say “No.”

Instead, try “Today we have A or B. Which one do you want?” While some kids will then reply, “I want C!” this leaves it open for you to say, “I like C, too, but today we get to pick from A or B.”  You notice that this response did not include the ‘N’ word! Sometimes just hearing that word sets some kids off!


Choice Boards

To do this visually, use a choice board! Visuals are important to help kids see the choices, even for verbal kids. They don't have to be fancy, just a 'no' item and 2 choices on plain paper.

* While they see the 'no’ symbol, they also see that there will be other choices available. 


* Without the visual, they will hear the 'no' and can have a meltdown before processing the other choices.


Carefully Sequence the Options

First, help your students understand 'no' (whether visually or verbally) in the context of structured activities where it doesn't have an emotional impact. Then build up to hearing ‘no’ when it actually is something that the child wants, after they have seen that there will be other options that are good, even if not their #1 choice.

Note: Some students may just not be able to handle ‘no’ for various reasons, but don’t make the mistake of giving in to tantrums or outbursts by giving them what they want! As painful as it can be to out wait a sobbing or screaming child, you will only be making it more likely that it will continue if you give in!

Work a deliberate sequence of choices into your daily routines, but don't start with your kids' most favorite choices. Here is one way it could be done.

Make the ‘NO’ choice a 'no' for someone else.


See this picture? I  never had a kid get upset when they couldn't feed a make-believe chocolate cookie in shoebox play. It is great practice for realizing that sometimes there is another choice that is okay. To read more about this, click here

Try out this step by step way, saving saying 'no' to their favorite choice being used only after your child is realizing that 'no' is not necessarily the end of the world. If they react with a meltdown, divert their attention if possible and go back to the last successful step the next day.


Note that the pictures are about cookies, but you can try this with toys, activities, or other favorites, too!


1. Make the ‘NO’ choice something that the child doesn’t like.

1. Make the ‘NO’ choice something that the child doesn’t like.

This is a great place to start for kids who just react to the word. Hearing ’no’ gets a bit of desensitization when it is used for something unwanted.

2. Make the ‘NO’ one of 3 equally liked choices.

2. Make the ‘NO’ one of 3 equally liked choices.

Switch them around from day to day just to help your child see that sometimes we run out of their favorites, or to learn that variety can be fine. Try these variations.


3. Make the ‘NO’ be the 2nd favorite.

3. Make the ‘NO’ be the 2nd favorite.
     
Have the favorite available, along with another choice your child likes.

4. Make the ‘NO’  be their favorite choice.


4. Make the ‘NO’  be their favorite choice.
Have the 2nd favorite available.
It also helps to have an empty chocolate chip cookie bag available for the child to see that there are no cookies in it. This can make settling for 2nd choice easier.

5. Build sabotage into your daily routines!

One day the crayon box can be empty, so kids have to choose from markers or colored pencils instead.

One day, the Lego basket is empty, so they have to choose a different building toy instead.

One day, the box of their favorite cereal is empty, so they have to eat something different.

You get the idea! Learning that there are changes and new choices to be made in life is tough learning for little ones, especially anxious little ones! But by presenting it in a way where there are positive outcomes as well as negative ones, many children can start to take it in better stride.  No miracles, just slow, hard work.

Good luck! How did this work for you?

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.

More Shoebox Play for Autism- Cars

Have you ever been asked for recommendations from parents about toys that are appropriate for their children to play with?  For more typical students, this isn’t usually difficult. But what do you say for your students on the spectrum who don't have typical play skills?

Take your student who works happily to get some play time with small cars, but then when he gets the cars he doesn’t actually play. 

All he does is line the cars up. Sometimes the cars are in size order, sometimes they are grouped by color, and sometimes there is no apparent pattern. Is there something we should do? And what in the world do we recommend when his parents ask us?

Your student shows that he is able to categorize by features, but he doesn’t get the function piece needed for representational play. How do we change this?

Get tips for expanding the play skills of students with autism using shoeboxes!

I love using shoeboxes to develop play skills for 3 reasons.


1. They make the play steps and ‘all done’ visually obvious.

2. They stabilize the toys to help with physical manipulation problems.

3. It makes one complete activity that the child can learn to do independently.

Design Your Own 

It is important to design the play shoebox so your student sees what to do and when it will be done from the visual set up. 

Another important piece is teaching how to use 2 or more objects together in play, since that is where make believe play begins.

Remember that when you are teaching a new skill, this is work! 

So, your student will work on learning how to play, but will get to line the cars up however he likes once the work is done.

Does your child with autism just line cars up? Read More Shoebox Play - Cars!
The photo shows one possible way to teach pushing toy cars and using them with a ramp to play. The little boy I used this with was nonverbal, with limited play skills, but he was able to learn how to make the cars go up and down the ramps on the shoebox. 

I faded the box by first using just the lid on the table, and then removing the lid. Eventually, he was able to request the color cars and ramps that he wanted and then play independently. 

You know that you have made progress when your student  requests cars and actually pushes them instead of just lining them up!

Does your child with autism just line cars up? Read More Shoebox Play - Cars!

Don't forget to add language skills! 

This photo shows how I put requesting into the activity, but communication is so much more than requesting! 

Add verbs and descriptive language:
go up, go down, go fast, go slow, stop, wait, go behind, go in front, etc.

Model visually and verbally- use your student's AAC device or make symbol play boards to point to the language as you say it.

Adapt some car books and expand the play to toy garages, roads and any other type of car play you can think of. 

But, what about IEP goals and academic standards?

Now, I know that there is great pressure put upon schools nowadays to align all work to educational standards. However, if you don’t help your students develop representational language and thinking skills, how are they going to comprehend higher level academics? 

And if they don’t know how to play, how are they going to develop friendships with their peers? Or the turn taking skills that are a basis for so many social interactions? My feeling is that helping with the language for play and behavioral difficulties are vital to include in your work with students, no matter what IEP goals you also have to address.

Where to start?

1. Figure out the level of your student’s play skills.
2. Pay attention to the toys your student takes out but doesn’t use appropriately.
3. Toys your students looks at, or picks up and sets down, can indicate interest without knowledge of what to do with the toy.

Working with Parents

1. Find out from the parents what kind of toys your student pays attention to at home, and exactly what he does with them.
2. Starting with a type of toy that is available at home has the benefit of offering more chances for carryover.

Suggestions for Parents

1. Buying a toy that is similar to one that your student knows how to play can be a good idea for carrying over play skills at home.
2. It is more beneficial for a student to have a toy he can play with appropriately than to buy a more advanced one that he doesn’t know how to use.
3. Consider asking a parent (who can afford it) to buy a toy that you will work on playing with in therapy sessions and send home when he can play with it independently.

If you found these suggestions to be helpful, you will want to check out my other shoebox play blog post here.

Get started with autism- a free download from Looks Like Language!
And don’t forget to sign up for my newsletter and get your free download of GettingStarted with Autism now!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving, friends!
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