When Grief Strikes- 9 Tips for Helping Children

My heart was breaking with grief as all of the signs began to add up that something was terribly wrong with my little girl: startling at every little sound, being too floppy to learn to sit, crying inconsolably, gaining skills and then losing them.

The long, drawn out, terrifying wait during series of doctor’s visits and hospital stays to find out what the problem was. The slowly diminishing loss of hope that she would ever be okay.

When my son was just about to enter kindergarten, my daughter was diagnosed with a fatal, degenerative genetic disease. While I was trying to cope with my grief, watching my one year old deteriorate until she didn’t recognize me any more, I was also trying to keep my bright, inquisitive 5 year old feeling safe and growing up as normally as possible.

It was a very long, unimaginably difficult 3 years watching my daughter slowly go into a comatose state until she passed, while still working and attempting to keep a normal home life for my son.

What SLPs can do when their students are in tough times.
Whether you are dealing with a personal tragedy, going through having a child diagnosed, or dealing with the after effects of massive storms or terrorist attacks, the world just doesn’t seem as safe anymore.
If we feel this as adults, how does it affect the children we work with? 


What did I learn that can be helpful to you?


1. Be sure to keep your young child’s comfort toy, blanket or security item with you. This is a good parenting tip even when your life is calm!

2. Young children get their sense of security from the adults around them. The better you are at accepting the changes and keeping as much of their routines intact, the more likely children will continue to feel secure.

3.  Children do not grieve the way adults do. They can be playing, seemingly happily, and then run to you for comfort or to ask a question. Remember their attention spans are short, so answer questions briefly and factually.

When they have received the information they were looking for, or the hug they needed, they will run back to whatever they were doing as if it had never happened. If you see your child’s eyes glaze over or they start to fidget, they are telling you, "Too much!"  So give the important information first!

4. If you are having problems coping, your child will, too. This is totally understandable when dealing with major issues. Just be sure to reach out and get help for yourself when you need it.

What about if you are working in the schools with children affected by drastic  events?


1. You are part of their safety net, so try to keep your school routines as close to usual as possible. When you can, laugh over the minor things you are having to do to cope with changed circumstances. Laughter is needed!

2. Listen and respond calmly and factually when students ask a question or bring up a difficult topic. If they go back to work right after, then you have met their need at the moment.

3. It is okay to respond that you don’t know, but you will try to find out for them.

4. It is okay to just acknowledge how difficult this is, and how they must be feeling. Pay attention to the child's body language, facial expression and tone of voice. Then, specifically label the emotion that they are feeling, so they have the language for it.

5. If some of your students are more withdrawn, more emotional, or just somehow not right compared to the general population, be sure to reach out to get them help. The whole family may need support to help them through this tough time.

While I wish we weren’t experiencing difficult times, I hope these tips will help you cope. And I am so very grateful to say that my son did grow up to be a wonderful adult who works helping others. I am thankful every day for my healthy children.

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?

Getting Started with Autism Guide- FREE!

Woo Hoo! Looks Like Language has been a blog for 2 years now!

To celebrate, I've gathered up the freebies for autism that I've made over the past 2 years and bundled them up into 1 easy download!


Get this amazing FREE Getting Started with Autism Guide from Looks Like Language!
Getting Started with Autism is a sweet little packet that includes things I wish someone had explained to me when I first started in a low functioning, behavioral autism program. So, of course I want to share it with you!

Even if you have already joined me, it is okay to click here and sign up again to get this amaaaazing download for FREE! Plus, you get an awesome BONUS!

Your email will be collected so that you can receive my newsletter with tips, news and freebies, but no spam! If you don't wish to receive sales notices, you can easily opt out.

In case you missed it, click here to get my incredible Getting Started with Conversation Guide! When you sign up, you are agreeing to get my free newsletter (but you can unsubscribe any time!)

I'm so thankful that you have joined me on this journey I never expected to take in life. Sometimes you just have to take what comes your way and go for it!

So, be sure to download these helpful freebies to get your school year off to a great start!

I'm grateful for your support! Enjoy!

Getting to Know You!

This is an unusual month for educators! In some parts of our country, summer school has just started. In other parts, they are gearing up for back to school.
Get this fun, FREE ice breaker game from Looks Like Language!

Wherever you live, you might find that this quick and easy printable game makes your planning easier! Whether you use it for asking and answering questions, getting new classmates to interact with each other, graphing answers afterwards, or for conversation skills, have fun with it!

You can download this freebie at my store. Make your life easier!

Spend your extra time enjoying a beautiful summer day!

5 Things NOT to Do When Building Conversation Skills

Would you like a life without conversations? No way! We probably can't even count how many we have during a day. So, try to imagine how the life of a child on the autism spectrum is like without this skill.

FREE Getting Started with Conversation Guide- Looks Like Language

No matter what we do to improve vocabulary, concepts, sentence structure, you name it, daily life functioning will be affected if we don't manage to get our students conversing socially. And it isn't always easy!

The traps I fell into when starting to work on this skill included:

* using imitative skills to have "conversations" which went nowhere.

* getting rote I like/What do you like interchanges only!
(While this is a beginning, it is definitely not an end goal.)

* prompting with 'say' and 'ask,' resulting in students getting confused about what was expected of them.

* prompting responses verbally, ending up with my students talking to me and not with each other!

* getting students to converse, but only on a limited range of topics or when prompted.

I knew that there must be a way to build conversation skills visually and avoid these issues. (You know that I am passionate about visuals and strategies!)

It took me lots of years of trial and error before I came up with the methods that worked for my students on the autism spectrum. I've had the clinician tested materials available for a while now, and I'm thrilled beyond measure that there are students out there making progress in conversation skills that I had a part in helping!

See what happy buyers have had to say:

"What a wealth of resources! The variety of books, games, and worksheets really offer a ton of ideas for therapy."

"So many great activities and materials for conversations!"

"These are great packets. Great visuals. Simple enough for almost any age/skill level. I really like the way each of these activities are presented and my kids enjoy them as well."

"I have been struggling to make/come up with activities for these skills, this bundle is going to be SO helpful in my sessions. THANK YOU!"

I want to help you see the information behind these useful materials, so I decided to make this brand new FREE guide call Getting Started with Conversation! 

It will help you with assessing current student status, planning therapy,  and measuring progress. 

To get this amazing 8 page FREE Getting Started with Conversation Guide, all you have to do is click here. Your email address will be collected so you can receive a monthly hello from me.


Build turn taking skills for conversation with loads of fun activities and printables!
Are you stressed for time? Are you too busy to create your own materials? Then try this out!

This fun packet is full of engaging activities for differentiated instruction and skill building, printable games and a checklist for tracking progress.

Enjoy!

AWESOME Resource Links for Social Skills: Emotions and Younger Students

Have you ever looked at the pile of materials you own and realize that you still don't have exactly what your student needs? I know that I often did!

Between differences in how they learn, what activities they enjoy, and how much practice is needed, I know that looking for resources can seem never-ending.

That is why I love to look for free help. And, of course, I want to share these resources with you!


Need some help finding free resources for teaching emotions? Check out this blog post!
Check out some FREE awesome resources!

I found a treasure trove of online ideas and activities for working on emotions and nonverbal language skills. 

This post features some of the fun, free online games I've found for young kids.

But, don't worry! If you work with older kids, there are some links for you, too. Just click here for some amazing free resources.




1. http://www.autismgames.com.au/game_eyecontact.html

Help kids realize that eye contact is important in this cute game.

If you don't make eye contact, learning to read nonverbal signals for emotions is going to much harder, if not impossible. So you can start here to help kids understand why it is important.








2. https://symbolworld.org/archive/Bits%2Bbobs/games/faces/index.htm

Hover over the faces to see the facial expression change.

This basic game has been archived, but it still works! Kids can hover over the faces to see the facial expression change.











3. http://www.autismgames.com.au/game_memotion.html

Match faces with the same emotions or listen to the story with emotion vocabulary in context.

This game shows faces for basic emotions and has students find matching faces. Simple practice is given for young children to respond in different ways: matching, dragging and memory. The emotions are used in a story context about Robbie the Robot. Love the Aussie accent!








4. https://do2learn.com/games/feelingsgame/index.htm

Find the person who feels the given emotion.

In this game, students find the photo of the face that matches the given emotion. Players can choose which person to use or mix up all three.











5. http://www.scholastic.com/earlylearner/parentandchild/feelings/feelinggame.htm
Match emoticons to the emotions.

Match the emoticons to the emotions in this cute, basic game for young kids. Someone needs to be able to read the emotions to them, however.










6. BOOM Teletherapy Cards- Social Skills for Emotions

Of course, I had to offer you a freebie of mine, too! It is great to have a quick and easy, no prep activity to review or end the session with.

You'll need to set up a Boom account to play this, but it is free! Your students will love the facial expressions on the cute monster faces, and you can make it a therapy activity by discussing each page first:

How does it feel?
How did you figure that out?
Did you ever have a time that you felt this way? What happened?

And if you work with older students, don't worry since I have some resources for you, too! Check out this post.

Enjoy!
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