How much time do you spend searching for therapy materials and making them? If you are like me, you often feel like you are just spending too much time making therapy cards.
I am going to share with you my little therapy card “trade secret”. It’s super easy, and even better- it’s free! All you have to do is go to Quizlet (http://quizlet.com/). This is a terrific site; it is a virtual community of people who use flash cards, make them and SHARE them. To join, all you have to do is create a user name plus password. You can search by topic and Quizlet will populate the results section with a myriad of choices for you to grab and print. Or, better yet, (yes- it gets better!), you can upload whatever deck of flashcards that you want from Quizlet onto your iPad. Poof! Immediately, you have a deck of flashcards to use in your therapy or lesson. No hassle, no cutting, no laminating, no fuss. Now, if you do want to use the iPad as a platform for your flashcards, it will be necessary to have a “flashcard App”. I like to use the free App, “Cardboard” (http://slidetorock.com/apps/Cardboard-flashcards-for-iPad.html). There are other free flashcard apps such as, “Brainscapes” (https://www.brainscape.com/) and ”Flashcards Delux” (http://orangeorapple.com/Flashcards/). It’s easy, it’s quick, and it’s even kind of fun to see how creative some people are in the Quizlet community!
Yesterday, I received an email from a woman working in a group home on the east coast who had several adult residents without any means of communication. Although saddened by this news, I was impressed with her initiative to find a way to provide communication systems for these folks even in the face of a major obstacle: no money. I am sharing with you some of the links to internet sites that I sent to her. These are all sources of free line drawings, pictures and photographs that can be used to create picture boards for communication. I realize that this is not a comprehensive list, so please share your free resources…thanks!
Here are some no cost or low cost ideas to get you started:
- If you have access to an iPad, iPod or iPhone, there are many free communication Apps that are especially good for people with minimal communication skills- just search AAC or Augmentative Communication in the App Store
- Many communication boards, most in fact, are made using Boardmaker software. You can download a free 30 day trial version here: http://www.mayer-johnson.com/downloads/trials/
- These are some other good links to free picture communication symbols:
- Here are some sites offering free photograph images for communication use:
- You can download pre-made communication boards at these sites:
- For people who can spell, here are some free spelling boards that you might find useful:
All of us are sickened by the school massacre in Newtown. Those of us who have an emotional investment in autism are also troubled by the possibility that the killer may have had Asperger’s Syndrome. Could that have caused his rampage?
I have worked with hundreds of children, teens and young adults with autism across every level of the spectrum. Some of them have personality disorders, but only about as often as other people have. Perhaps some of them could have been triggered into violence, but no more so than any other people I’ve known.
Of course autism comes with challenges. It is a lonely place to live, a place with its own sensitivities and pains. Autism asks for understanding and help. But we don’t need to wonder if it poses a special threat. All my experience says it doesn’t.
Children with language delays, attention deficits, social skill chalenges and/or sensory integration disorders frequently have poorly developed play skills. When skillfully presented, game play is particularly beneficial in improving all of these issues. I use this term, “skillfully presented”, to mean thoughtful selection and presentation of the game. The game must be enticing, but not over-stimulating; age-appropriate, but also at a cognitive and/or linguistic level in concert with your child’s skills, short enough to allow for completion, but long enough to stretch attention spans, and have clear rules that provide structure and predictability, with enough flexibility to allow for unrehearsed social exchanges.
The most effective ways that I have found to encourage speech, language, social and cognitive development through game play all rely on adapting the game in such a way as to maintain engagement. Once you have engagement, you can then teach your target skills.
- Tap into special interests: Is your child a fan of Star Wars, Legos or Superheros? Is she head over heals for Strawberry Shortcake or horses? How about a passion for trains, Harry Potter, anything blue? Use what they are interested in to draw them into a game. I once had a client who was obsessed with clocks. I put clocks on trains, made board game squares into clocks and the pawns became Grandfather Clocks, I used a clock for a target instead of a dart board, played Go Fish with clocks, etc. One he learned the rules of those games, I was then able to transition away from clocks to more traditional formats. Before long, he was playing all kinds of games with the other students in his private school classroom.
- Simplify! Reduce the number of pieces, colors, turns required, etc. For example, you can play Jenga with 10 blocks instead of the entire box, memory with 6 pairs instead of 12, Candyland with a board that you have drawn that is shorter and only has spaces of three colors and no special characters, require everyone to take only 3 turns and then end the game. Anything that will reduce the number of things that your child needs to attend to, remember, process or do will make it easier for him to attend to, and enjoy the game. For example, think about how much more complicated it is to play a game with 4 people versus just 2. Instead of having to track red, blue, yellow and green pawns, he only has to track red and blue. Instead of having to wait for three other people to take their turns, he only has to wait for you. Instead of having to look from person, to person, to person, he only has to look at you.
- Introduce games when your child is calm. After having had a nap, snack and/or a good dose of rough and tumble play is a much better time to bring out a sedentary game that demands focus, language processing and social referencing. Don’t try to play “one quick game” just before bed, or while waiting for dinner to finish up. If your child is rested, has a full stomach and is well organized, he will be much more able to engage and have a positive experience. The more positive experiences that your child has, the more he will want to play.
- Maximize positioning. Make sure that your child is comfortable. Perhaps sitting in a chair with solid support, or on a bean bag where he is cushioned, or under a weighted lap pillow- where ever your child has shown you to be the most calm and happy is a good place to begin. Then, sit ACROSS from your child so that he can easily see your face, reference you and watch your actions.
Whew! This new onslaught of Apps for our profession is both sensational and overwhelming at the same time! I thought you might find it useful to have a regular update, a few at a time, on some of the Apps that we like at CLASS, Inc.
1. “Things That Go Together”- this is an app that works on associations and starts out with two pictured associations on a page and moves to six or more to a page.
2. “ABA What Doesn’t Belong“- this app works on spotting the difference between four pictured objects per page. The objects may differ from colors to categories each item is associated with.
3. “Sentence Maker”- this app is great for teaching the beginning concepts of sentence structure. Each sentence has a picture representation. The sentence from two to six words and you place the correct word in the blanks to make a complete sentence.
4. “Grammaropolis”- this is a great app to work on grammar. It’s decided into categories of nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions, and interjections. Each category has quizzes books and videos for that part of grammar. It’s very comprehensive!
5. “Spellmania”- this app works like a spelling game show and makes spelling really fun and challenging. As you progress in levels, you are given a certain amount of time in which you are suppose to spell the word correctly.
“He’s a boy…boys talk later than girls.” ”She is the baby of the family and her older brothers are just talking for her.” “My brother didn’t talk until he was five.” “Einstein didn’t talk until he was five.” ”Wait until he is three and then we will see how he is doing.” These are just a few of the many responses that parent receive from well intentioned friends, family and doctors when parents confess that they are worried that their child is not talking as much and/or as clearly as he or she should be for his/her age. In most cases, a parent’s “gut feeling” is correct. Why wait and see what might happen when you can get an evaluation today from a professional who is trained to identify children who have communication delays? While it is true that each child develops at his or her own pace, there are certain milestones that should be attained by specific ages. Children who are behind in meeting those benchmarks can often quickly catch up with some speech therapy. Speech therapy is fun, and can’t hurt, so why do parents often wait and worry? Usually because we parents don’t want our children to be “behind” and silently hope that they will just catch up. While some do, many won’t.
It is difficult to predict which children will catch up on their own. What follows is a list of identified “red flags” or “risk factors” that, when present, indicate that a child is unlikely to attain speech and language milestones without professional speech therapy support:
- Family has a history of speech or language delays
- Frequent ear infections
- Limited babbling as an infant
- Produces few consonant sounds
- Does not imitate sounds or words
- Does not point
- Has limited eye contact
- Uses only a few gestures to communicate
- Speaks with mostly nouns or just a few words
- Appears to have a hard time following directions
- Does very little pretend play
- Has a hard time being understood by people other than family
The best course of action is, if you have a nagging worry, consult a speech language pathologist. Many offer free consultations. Wouldn’t it be great to have your mind put to rest? If there is a delay, the sooner that your child receives help, the faster he will catch up. Bottom line: asking for help from a certified speech language pathologist is the way to go!
My client’s father sits across the table from six school professionals. The principal, psychologist, teacher, para, special education director and OT have all gathered together for this morning progress meeting. I am there as my client’s private SLP. Despite the lack of balance in representation, my client’s father reaches deep into his heart, graciously praising the school team for their care, interest and ongoing hard work with his son. He knows, he says, that his non-verbal and often self-injurious pre-teen is not easy to work with and that the rewards are in the smallest of gains. I gaze around the table at the individual faces of this large school team and see them lift with gratitude at the father’s words; even if they don’t always know what to do, they always have his son’t best interests at heart.
My client’s father then outlines what he wants school’s next steps to be in educating his son. As I once again glance at the faces of those six professionals, I notice a hardening of their features and slight glare in their eyes. I am unsure if my client’s father notices this or not. Many things are discussed over the next hour. Most of them are trivial. My client’s father politely, yet relentlessly, returns to his requests. Words are tossed back and forth between the large team of six to the small team of one. The most solid ideas to foster educational progress are those spoken by my client’s father. It is crystal clear that he has thought long and hard about the current needs of his son and how to overcome them. The school staff really has no option; they are wonderful, loving, highly-educated folks with the best of intentions. But, they aren’t Dad. There is no way that they can possibly have the depth of understanding about this young man that Dad does, and he doesn’t expect them to. What he does expect them to do is use his wisdom to teach his son. They understand this. They also realize that his ideas really are what is best for his son at this moment in time. They tweak a few ideas to better fit my client’s school day. A plan is developed. I take one final look around the room and see smiles, glowing eyes and postures indicative of mutual respect. This was a successful meeting.
New research from Carnegie Mellon University was published in the journal, PLOS ONE this month indicating that children with autism do, in fact, recognize differences in social behaviors. The researchers used brain imaging while children who were typically developing and those with autism identified pictures of children participating in “bad” behaviors. The results revealed that children with autism were able to identify the pictures, however, unlike their typically developing peers, they did not involve any of the language centers of their brain to make the determinations. It can be inferred that children with autism do not use the language centers of the brain to “encode” social behaviors like their typically developing peers do. This might explain, in part, why children with autism have challenges talking about social behaviors.
Citation: Carter EJ, Williams DL, Minshew NJ, Lehman JF (2012) Is He Being Bad? Social and Language Brain Networks during Social Judgment in Children with Autism. PLoS ONE 7(10): e47241. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047241
Pretend Play teaches kids how to cooperate better with their peers. Dramatic play, whether it’s pirates, house, school or super-heros actually refines children’s social and communication skills. This summer, consider putting together a dress up treasure box filled with creative castoffs, set your kids loose and let their social communication skills blossom!