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

Change Can Be Hard! 7 Tips for Students

Teach 'CHANGE' in a non-emotional context- Tips from Looks-Like-Language
Change can truly be hard, even as capable adults, so it is not surprising that it is even more difficult for kids. Add on some communication difficulties, sensory problems, and a struggle that is already in place to make sense of a world with rules that are not understood, and it is no wonder that some of our kids have meltdowns when there is a change. 

In the northeast, spring can be a time of very visible change. In therapy, I like to make use of this to help my students understand what the word 'change' means in a non threatening context. It helps them to see that some changes can be positive, and handled, to help them make a bridge to coping with less welcomed changes. 

I'm sharing some photos of activities that are well loved and well used to let you see an example. The bottom left photo is an activity from a very old Sesame Street magazine. My students just loved it and learned that change can be fun! If you know about current places to get these types of activities, please comment with your resource. If they aren't available, I might give a try at making some because they work so well for eliciting this language!


I always try to start with a good book. One I love is White Rabbit Color Change by Alan Baker, which can be found as a read aloud on YouTube. Mine has been adapted and models the vocabulary 'change.'

Hands on fun to talk about change! Looks-like-Language
Next you need a good hands on activity! If you have a small caterpillar and a butterfly stuffed animal set, follow the picture directions to make a fun hands on activity! You just need a paper towel tube, scissors and tape to make it.
Here are the steps: 
1. Cut the paper towel tube in half lengthwise.
2. Cut the tube in half across the width.
3. Tape the pieces back together to make a cocoon.
4. Hide the butterfly inside.
5. Push the caterpillar into the cocoon and watch the change!

How about turning a worksheet into an activity? I love this one adapted from a Frank Schaffer worksheet where they can change a picture scene of winter to one of spring by placing the new scenery on top. To play this game, the students need to request which picture they want to change! Requesting a change may be a new experience for some of our kids, but it is functional for them to use when they don't like something that is going on. 


A follow up activity is to have them color the picture afterwards, but sabotage the situation by giving them the wrong color or the kind of marker/crayon/colored pencil they prefer the least. Prompt use of the word 'change.' "Oh, you didn't want blue? You want to change the color?" 


For older kids, it is fun to use silly pictures. After they identify what is wrong in the picture, have them explain how it should be changed to make it better. 


How about a card game? Matching games with pictures of natural changes also work. Changing caterpillars to cocoons to butterflies and solid (snowman) to liquid (water) are common examples.


These games can also lead to a discussion of changes kids like versus changes they don't like. Start with the less personal examples, like cold weather versus warm weather, and then move to examples from during the school day. Think about bringing in possible negative changes:
* schedule changes
* teachers being absent
* fire drills
* disappointments over trips being cancelled
* lunch menu suddenly changing to the least favorite food
* no recess
* anything you know could be difficult for your students

Be sure to include positive changes:

* teacher deciding 'no homework'
* a birthday party
* a fun special, like a performance
* the lunch menu suddenly changing to your favorite food
* getting an award or prize
* anything special that happens at your school

When students have the language to think and talk about change in positive as well as negative ways,  it is a necessary stepping stone to having more flexible thinking and problem solving skills to help them cope when changes occur.

What are your favorite ways to teach about change?

Do Your Students Have these Vital Life Skills?

Are your students limited to one connection when it comes to cause-effect reasoning and social problem solving skills that are so necessary for functional life skills? This isn’t a problem when students are young, but in middle and high school they need to be able to think and plan a bit further than that to develop independent living skills.

Are yo teaching your students these crucial skill sets?

Making the Connections

Being able to predict multiple possible causes and consequences is part of what helps us make decisions about the correct response to have. And being able to see the impact these actions have on others helps us to live in groups.

For example, my student, ‘R.’ could answer, “What happens when you leave the pizza in the oven too long?” with “It will burn.”
But, when asked why else this is a problem, he couldn’t see the bigger picture and provide anything else that would happen.

Say, for example:
Now there is nothing for dinner and we will be hungry.
If the pizza stays in too long, it could cause a fire.
It will make smoke and we will have to open the windows.

His partner in the group, ‘M’, however, could come up with examples of why burnt pizza was a problem, but couldn’t tell why the pizza was burned in the first place.

Why your students need expanded cause-effect skills.

This group worked out quite well as they both looked at the same picture sets and discussed the events with each other, helping to fill in the gaps.

Of course, students need to have an experiential basis for a variety of situations (although I wouldn’t burn the pizza on purpose) but pictures and practice can help fill in some of the gaps.


‘Cause and EffectActivities’ was developed to help the students be able to expand these critical thinking skills.  As always, the pictures were dependent on those available at the time, but the visuals for building skills follow a format that works. 

Build student skills using visual strategies from a picture level, to sentences, to figuring out cause-effect, to explaining in short problem scenarios, all in one set designed for multiple levels of the same skill!

Get your concrete thinkers to expand skills and come up with multiple causes and effects to help them problem solve both real-life activities and social scenarios. The problem isn’t always just in the burned pizza, it is a bigger problem because of all the other effects that could be occurring at the same time!

3 Thrilling Halloween Activities

Halloween is such a fun holiday! Your students can have a blast learning with just a bit of effort on your part if you make these enjoyable interactive therapy materials that cost you almost nothing!

Thrilling, you might say? Well, I was certainly thrilled that my students loved these activities so much that I didn't have too much planning to do! And if you landed here by accident, scroll down to the bottom for some Halloween ideas on video!

Last year this time, my blog was still so new that these fun activities got hardly any exposure, and they truly deserve better than that! So, I am recapping each activity here,  from youngest to oldest ages, with a link to the full posts. My students have had so much fun with these activities, I'm quite sure that yours will, too!

Halloween therapy ideas from Looks Like Language

Our youngest and most limited students often need help learning the language for routines. What better way to help them than play? Just a shoebox, construction paper and some stickers can help you create great Halloween interactive fun. You can use this over and over all month long! Click here.
Yes, you can create easy therapy materials!

A bit of colored felt, glue and markers can add a lot to any Halloween toys that you own! Puppets are so helpful to get shy students talking. Putting anything into a container gives that element of surprise that kids love, almost like opening a present! Give yourself a little present and check out this speech/language therapy idea here!

Tips for Making Bingo Interactive!

Older students like to have fun, too! Get a little gaming and movement into your therapy sessions with this easy to make bingo variation. I've used it to work on inference skills, but you can do so much more to adapt it to your group's goals! Learn about it here.

                                                           Not so cute :(
Felt Halloweenies are quick and easy to do!

Update: I just had to share my latest Target find since it may still be available near you! While it is true that our hand made materials get kids talking just as well as the 'pretty' ones, we do like to treat ourselves a little and these are just darn cute!

I love the button feature- you can reinforce those fine motor skills while having the fun of hiding something inside one of them! Have your students request each one until they find where the prize was hidden!

                                                     Very cute! :)

Be sure to check out the links to my free Halloween downloads! You can access all of the links here.

How about some thrilling, easy to do Halloween decorations?

Or maybe you'd like these fun tricks for setting up a party!

Happy Halloween! Enjoy!

5 Reasons to Use Visuals Now!

Here's hoping that you have the Best.Year.Ever! I'm linking up with The Frenzied SLPs to give some tips about visuals to help you achieve the best year ever.

Visuals Aren't Just for Autism!

1. Visualizing is a well known memory aid, but it isn't an automatic skill! Learning to keep a visual memory of a picture we have seen is one way to start practicing building your own mental picture. Just think of all those What's Missing? pictures where kids need to remember the details of the original picture. It is a fun way to build memory skills!

2. Visuals help with auditory processing. When a student has a picture that is related to the words he is hearing, it is easier to make sense of the message. The picture can help connect the words to the concepts and retain the main idea in working memory.

3. Visuals help with expressive language skills. When a student uses pictured words to formulate sentences, she can begin to see the pattern of the sentence structure, especially when repetitive practice is given that just switches out key words.

4. Visuals help with articulation skills. With decreased linguistic demands for sentence formulation, the student can put all his efforts into the motor aspect of sound production in connected speech and be more successful.

5. Visuals help everyone to function! What would you do without your calendar and planner?

Links for Visuals

Do you have my free visual Getting Started with Autism Guide? Get it here!

Here are links to some free downloads, written from an autism perspective:

This link is very informative about using visuals in instruction for the common core:

This link has free templates for many visuals:

There are so many free resources for graphic organizers, one of the most popular ways to use visuals:

When educating students, so much of our efforts are put toward increasing comprehension skills, since that goes along naturally with teaching curriculum. As SLPs and special educators, though,  it is so vital to remember to help give our students a voice! Whether they can use pictures, words, or a combination of both, helping kids to be able to express their needs, wants and ideas is a core skill.

The newest set in my File Folder Sentence activities line, Apple and Pumpkins, may provide just the practice your students need to understand what to expect on your fall trips and be able to communicate about it! I've included a bonus social sequence page to show some steps for going on bus trips.

If you like this idea, be sure to visit my store tomorrow, August 22nd, for the TpT Bonus Best Year Ever sale. My whole store is 20% off! Use the code 'oneday' to get an additional 8% off everything!

SLP friends, if you have a product with great visual supports, feel free to add a link in the comments. Let's have the Best.Year.Ever!

Useful Tips for Helping Students Transition to Independence

If you read my post on my sister blog, Speech Spotlight, you already know that I am thinking about how our job really doesn’t end, even if our schools are closed for the summer.

On a similar note, the education of our moderately to severely impacted students doesn’t really end when they turn 21. However, it is much more difficult for families to get the help that they need at that point in time than it is when they are school aged. Because of that, it is so important for us to think about our students’ functional communication skills so they can achieve the greatest amount of independence possible as adults.

Parents and special educators, don’t tune out because the next sentence starts with SLP! You will want to see the resource links in this post!

Ideas and links to help you build more independent living skills for your students from Looks Like Language!
As SLPS, we need to support our students and their special educators who are teaching them the life skills curriculum needed for independence. Learning the tasks to do has to be supported by being able to communicate appropriately, especially when something in the learned process breaks down. Here are a few points I found important to think about when figuring out what communication skills are needed.

1. Behaviors
When a problem behavior begins, look at the communication function that it may serve. What happened to provoke the behavior? Was there something that the student may have needed to communicate, but lacked the ability to do so? The frustration in this situation can lead to inappropriate behaviors. Teaching the appropriate communication skill can help reduce the unwanted behavior.

2. Social Interactions
It has been my observation that students who have more appropriate social communication skills are given more opportunities. Period.

3. Communication Breakdowns
When all goes as expected, the student’s day may be smooth. When something unexpected occurs, not only is it more anxiety producing, which is difficult enough, but the student may lack the communication skills to get the help that is needed. We need to think ahead, to try to figure out what could go wrong, and make sure that our students have the ability to request help. Sabotaging the situation is a great way to give students the practice needed in using these communication skills!

Where to start?
For me, the best place to start is by gathering information about what is expected of our students. Communication skills are very individualized, so there are limited resources for this on the web.  However, I was able to find some free resources for assessing the skills that are needed for independence. I just love it when someone else has thoughtfully done some of the work for me!

This autonomy checklist is great for special educators and parents to assess the teen’s needs, as well as to note progress. It lists many of the functional skills needed for independent living in a handy format. SLPs, I used this to help me think about what a student might need to communicate while doing these tasks (especially when something goes wrong) and to assess whether my students had the necessary language.

This outline of the PALS Life Skills core curriculum lists varied skills needed for less impaired students to function independently. I know there are some that I wouldn’t have thought about!

This is a very cool online assessment tool that gives links to assessment materials based on students’ grade and disability. 
This is a great checklist for independence skills for teens, geared especially toward parents.

This free download assesses the skills needed for functioning in the community, including some communication skills.

This is probably my favorite of all of these links! They did an amazing job compiling checklists at three levels for joint attention, greetings, self regulation, conversations, perspective taking, social problem solving/critical thinking skills, friendship and life skills. They also included a recommended resource list. If you only check out one of these links, get this one!

I try to work together with my students’ special educators, so we are addressing the communication skills for the life/job skill they are working on currently.  Although our time is limited, observing how my students communicate during life skills training helps me to determine what needs they have. Then, I can work on teaching the communication skills in a variety of activities and touch base with classroom staff to see if the skills are generalizing. 

For very limited students, who don’t generalize well, I try to replicate the situation as well as I can, as I am not usually able to be on site. Then I incorporate the help of the classroom aides to fine tune and carryover the skills while they are on the job site with the student.  Working together, we can help our students/children gain more functional communication and independence!

It's Not Your Run of the Mill File Folder Activity!

If your students on the spectrum are able to play in simple sequential patterns, such as placing a figure in a car and pushing it, or putting a car on a garage toy and making it go down the ramp, then they should have the language to talk about it! Do they? 

Communicative frustration is a very important factor to look at in students with behavioral issues. Wouldn't you be frustrated if you weren't able to make your needs known? There are many other factors, as well, but expressive language skills will be the focus today. If you are interested in learning more, I recommend reading some of V. Mark Durand's work on functional communication and behavior, such as this:
autism, AAC, symbol supported, file folder activity, Looks-Like-Language
I have had great success with students producing basic sentences to talk about preferred activities using visually supported, interactive file folder sentence activities. This method has worked with verbally limited students a well as those who are nonverbal AAC users. The first step is to make sure that your student understands the visuals you are using. 

Make it fun! Just have the students request the toys and figures to play with, either verbally or using symbols. Rather than giving them the toy they asked for, give them access to the toys and say something like, “Sure! Take it!” You will see if they understand when they are taking what they requested.

My favorite way to start implementing this technique is in combination with toys I own and the students can play with. If your student plays with the toys first, forming sentences afterwards to talk about what happened during play, you are actually teaching narrative skills as well!

Some students will do better if they form the sentences first, knowing that they get to play when the file folder activity is completed, and that is fine, too!
autism, AAC, file folder, symbol supported, Looks-Like-Language
The graphic shows the steps I take to build the sentences for students with limited skills. I have found the most success with using a backward chaining pattern. 

For example, if I start with 3 symbol sentences, the character and the symbol ’ride’ will already be placed on the top sentence strip. All the student does is choose the toy by placing the symbol on top and point to each symbol in the strip as you read aloud. Then the character head gets placed on the toy and the whole thing goes on the garage. When all of the Velcro strips in the garage picture are filled, it is time for a play break!

If the student did that easily ad is still showing interest in the garage, I might have him place 'ride' and the toy symbol in the top sentence strip in the next round. Be sure to start where the student is successful, work to a little higher level each session and end the activity while the student is still engaged!
For higher level students, the top picture adds all of the choices that might be used to make sentences about playing with the garage. 
If you take pictures of your student’s favorite toy set, making a customized interactive sentence file folder activity is easy enough to do! If you prefer ready made, check out mine here

I hope this gave you some useful ideas! 
Are you interested in more helpful therapy tips and freebies? Subscribe to the monthly newsletter by entering your email on top, visit on  Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram: @lookslikelanguage.
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