Free Themed Token Boards for Autism- Superheroes

Get Started with Autism! Free guide at Looks Like Language
Do you feel like a superhero some days when you get home from work just for lasting through the day? I know I’ve had days like that! 

Dealing with kids all day long can be draining, the more so when they have special needs. That is why we need visuals! Token boards give the message of how much work is expected, visually, to motivate students to keep on working.

While some students only look at token boards to see that they are getting closer to receiving their reinforcer, other students can work a little longer when their token board has a preferred theme.  I hope that one of these freebies will do that for you

Get Started with Autism! Free guide at Looks Like Language

My third token board freebie has a hero theme. I've organized all of these helpful free resources into one easy download for you! 

Get Started with Autism! Free guide at Looks Like Language
Download the Getting Started with Autism guide here.

Don't miss out on this free helpful resource!

Practical Tips for Emotion Vocabulary and Social Language Skills

Work? Who, me?

If you have a student population who is, shall we say defiant, then you'd probably be happy to get the polite rejection of the student in the photo.

After working with students who fit in the mainstream, switching to students with social/emotional disorders who need occasional hospital visits can be quite a change. Especially when they are middle schoolers, a trying time for all of us when we were there!

I'm not making any claims about perfection, but I certainly learned a few helpful tips.

1. Give your students some control over the content or the activities they are being asked to learn. 

2. This opens the door for  practicing language for negotiating and compromising, as well.

3. Take care of your students' needs first. They probably have a lot going on in their heads that they have to work through, anyway, before they can begin to focus.

4. Make sure to build a connection with every student that you can, even if they aren't on your caseload. Next year, they might be!

5. Don't bother trying to find just that right materials that will excite them into learning. Your relationship with them may help them be able to start the learning process.

Are You Jumping Hurdles?

If every session feels like they are making you jump hurdles, then maybe try incorporating their speech/language goals into activities that allow them to reflect on the issues that are filling up their thoughts.

How about vocabulary for identifying and expressing the intensity of the emotion they are experiencing at that moment? This blog article has a great Emotions Wheel with tons of words to choose from!

Use Some Hands-On Activities

Your students can do some hands on activities for learning the chosen vocabulary.

* Make a personalized dictionary.
* Play games with photos of different facial expressions or situations.
* Find images to make a picture dictionary.
* Look up synonyms using a great online student dictionary.

Do Some Social Problem Solving

‘How big is your problem?’  

Students who explode over every small incident need lots of varied vocabulary for angry emotions to be able to think about the severity of the problem. 

Explaining their reasoning for their answers helps them internalize the language and thinking skills for their own future use. Fortunately, there are resources out there to help you get started!

This website has a wealth of information on problem solving, including problem solving steps, a video of this in action (with a lovely Aussie accent), scenarios and some downloads.

This is an animated YouTube video about the steps to problem solving. The voice is a bit mechanical, but students may like the animation.
This site has an easy to use chart for the size of the problem as well as videos with students. - 
more problem scenarios

Check out the Problem Solving section of my store for more help! 


Free Themed Token Boards for Autism- Farm!

Get Started with Autism! Free guide at Looks Like Language

Token boards are a wonderful strategy for students who are on the autism spectrum. Teachers love to use them to help students build up the amount of work that students can do, among other reasons. 

I have seen them used in a variety of ways for a variety of purposes, but no matter how they are used, I also love the communication opportunities that they regularly provide. 

Why use themed token boards? While some students only look at them to see that they are getting closer to receiving their reinforcer, other students can work a little longer when their token board has a preferred theme.  I hope that one of these freebies will do that for you!

I have organized these popular freebies into the FREE Getting Started with Autism guide to make it easy for you! Get it here!


Awesome Links for Social Skills: Emotions and Older Students

The longer I have worked with moderately-severely involved students, both those on the spectrum and those with emotional disabilities, the more I realize how important a role that weak social language/pragmatic skills play in their inability to function in a mainstream environment.  

It is hard to find resources for older kids, much less free ones!
While these skills are important for both disabilities, I have observed that the way that they impact my students differs. 

My emotionally disturbed students tend to flare up easily.  They misunderstand idiomatic language and inferences their peers are making, misread body language cues, facial expressions, and gestures, interpreting situations as more negative toward themselves than they may actually be.  

Another situation that occurs is that they are correct in reading the social situation as being negative, but then don’t have the language skills to work out compromises and negotiate solutions peaceably. They often understand the basic emotions but lack the nuances and vocabulary for sophisticated emotions to be able to regulate their emotions using language. 

For example, if you can only think about angry and furious, how do you think/talk it out that what happened is aggravating and not worth getting in more trouble over? Of course, in reality, it is not this simple, but the language for emotions does play a role in the big picture.

Research is starting to show that the majority of students with emotional disorders have social language difficulties that were not able to be identified due to behaviors and noncompliance that masked the problems. Food for thought.

Students on the spectrum may not even realize that non-verbal communication exists. They often have poor eye contact, so they spend less time looking at facial expressions, to begin with. 

Between interpreting the language they understand very literally, and misunderstanding the facial expressions, gestures and body language people use to communicate, it is not surprising that many students would rather live in their comfortable space with their preferred topics. So much of what goes on around them is so confusing!

Despite the impacts of these deficits displaying themselves in different ways in these populations, the materials that I use for building vocabulary for emotions are the same. The differentiation occurs in choosing the materials and vocabulary level based on the cognitive skills/maturity of the students, and then in how the vocabulary is elicited in application activities afterward.

I have found these resources to be so helpful that I have been spending time yearly to make sure that the links are working, and adding any new sites that I've found. So be sure to check back, and let your friends know about this post!

This post features links that could be appropriate for older students (middle/high) depending on their level. For fun stuff for younger kids, check out this post.

Free Resource Links

Check it out:

I found that my older students responded really well to these types of facial expressions and there are so many to choose from, as well as different types of printables.

Check it out:

Mark, the force behind this website, is amazingly prolific in the number of materials he shares for free. (Although donations are gladly accepted.)

Be sure to check out his game website, too!

These resources are great for teaching nuances of emotions, how we can feel combinations of emotions, and that they vary in intensity. Find more free resources on this site!


This website was made for middle school level but is appropriate for many special needs high school students, too.

There are a variety of lesson plans and online activities here.


Comic strips are a great therapy tool for older kids. There are many goals that can be worked on, making them useful for mixed groups, too.

This site is my favorite for creating comics since it is easy to use and has lots of options. Let your students decide on the problem, choose the appropriate character to show the emotion, and use their vocabulary in the speech bubble dialogues.

Other sites you might like are:

6. Teen Social Inferences and Problem Solving Free Unit 

This puts many of the skills our students are lacking to use in real life problem scenarios. This free unit is helpful whether you are in a classroom or running social skills groups, so click now to download it for free! 

If you love it, kind feedback is always appreciated as a thank you!

For links to use with younger students, check out this post.
If I missed any great resources, I’d love it if you would share your faves in the comments!


Free Themed Token Boards for Autism- Dinosaurs!

Time for a change of pace! I hope you’ve been loving my literacy freebies. I have to say that I’ve been enjoying making them. They remind me of my preschool days and are so much simpler and quicker to make than the packets I have for sale. I also love that I could be helping some children out there –it warms my heart to think about it!

Get this FREE autism resource bundle from Looks Like Language!

But now I’d like to help some of you who are working with children with autism. You know that I believe strongly in using visual supports for children with special needs since my name reflects that! Students who are on the spectrum especially need this help, and token boards are a very useful strategy.

Get Started with Autism! Free guide at Looks Like Language
I've bundled up all of my free resources, including this dinosaur token board, for students with autism. 

One of my students would do anything if there was a dinosaur involved!

Get Started with Autism! Free guide at Looks Like Language

Download the free Getting Started with Autism guide here!

Don't miss out on this helpful free resource! Enjoy!

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!

What One SLP is Doing This Summer!

Summer is a great time to recharge! When my kids were younger, I loved having that extra time with them, feeling like a stay-at-home mommy. Now my kids are grown up, but you know what? I still love having that time!
When I’m not at school or working on materials for TpT, I love to quilt! This summer, I have an extra special reason to quilt since my son is getting married to a lovely woman. I saw a dare on Buzzfeed- Would you cut up your wedding dress? My answer is a resounding “YES!”

Looks-Like-Language is quilting this summer!
I gathered wedding dresses from family members that were just sitting in attics and boxes and I CUT THEM UP! I’m turning them into a chuppah- a traditional Jewish wedding canopy. 

What could be better than getting married under the wedding dresses of your loved ones? Isn’t that so much better than having them sit and molder away in an attic?

This is still a work in progress, since I am designing as I go, but I thought I’d share a few photos of it in progress.

You know I will be busy this summer getting this done! What do you like to do in the summer? Any other quilting teachers or SLPs out there- I’d love to find out your summer project!
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