Special Education Students Learn How to Share and Prepare for Thanksgiving

(SGVN/Staff photo by Leo Jarzomb/SWCITY)

In the spirit of the Thanksgiving holiday, we thought we would share this wonderful report we came across on learning how to prepare for Thanksgiving festivities at Dexter Middle School in Whittier, CA. With weeks of preparation for their annual tradition, sixth-, seventh-, and eighth-graders in this school’s special education program learn about manners, responsibility, budgeting at the grocery store, and treating others with respect, especially at the dinner table.

How are you preparing for Thanksgiving with your special student this year? What’s your annual tradition?

Click to read: Thanksgiving comes early for Dexter Middle students

Download our 2014 Holiday Gift Guide today! Find the perfect gift for your special child

Around the holidays, parents often get calls from grandparents, friends and relatives asking for gift ideas for children with special needs. Our 2014 Holiday Gift Guide will make it a bit easier for everyone to find something special for the special child in their life. Our trusted consultant Sam Blanco, MSEd, BCBA has put together some of her favorites that are sure to bring delight. From our Different Roads family to yours, we wish you all the joy and happiness of the season.

Holiday Gift Guide

DOWNLOAD OUR 2014 HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE NOW!  

AND we’re slashing the prices of the toys and games in our Holiday Gift Guide, so be sure to apply or mention our promo code GIFT14 to save 15%* on these featured products!

 

Pick of the Week: “I Feel Angry When…” – A Social Skills Game to Teach How to Express & Respond to Anger

I Feel Angry When… teaches children the important skills of learning how to express their anger in a nonthreatening way, and to respond in positive ways when they feel angry. This week, we’re giving you 15% off* your order of the I Feel Angry When… game by applying our promo code IFEEL at checkout!

With this game, kids learn how to use I-Messages – a verbal template that offers a way to communicate how you feel and what you want without offending others. This method, when combined with basic anger control strategies, gives children an opportunity to express their anger in a calm way without resorting to aggression.

As they respond to anger-provoking situations described on game cards, players learn how to use I-Messages to communicate their feelings. They also learn 12 anger control strategies that help them retain their composure in the moment anger erupts. Simple and straightforward, this game gives children the skills they need to keep their cool. The game comes with 2 Anger Control Spinners (one for ages 6–9 and one for 10–12), 1 I-Message Guide Cards, 200 Reward Chips, 54 Situation Cards, and 6 “Tell Me About It” Cards. This game is recommended for children ages 6 to 12.

Don’t forget to use promo code IFEEL at checkout this week to save 15%* on your set of I Feel Angry When…!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on November 25th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Simplifying the Science: Addressing Vocal Stereotypy or “Scripting”

Many parents and teachers struggle with addressing vocal stereotypy or “scripting” in children with autism. Since stereotypy is frequently automatically reinforcing, (meaning that the behavior is maintained by the sensation produced by the behavior) it is especially difficult to address. While this type of behavior does occur in typically developing children (think of a young child singing the same song repeatedly for several weeks or a toddler repeating a newly learned sound) there is concern that this behavior persists in children with autism and other developmental disabilities in such a manner that it interferes with learning.

In 2007, William H. Ahearn, Kathy M. Clark, Rebecca P.F. McDonald and Bo In Chung published a study in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis entitled Assessing and Treating Vocal Stereotypy in Children with Autism.” The study defined vocal stereotypy as “any instance of noncontextual or nonfunctional speech and included singing, babbling, repetitive grunts, squeals, and phrases unrelated to the present situation.” It focused on four learners (two boys and two girls) who had autism and were referred for the study because their vocal stereotypy interfered with their ability to learn. The children ranged in age from 3-11. Three of them used speech to communicate while one used PECS.

The study describes potential interventions from previous research before introducing its goal of interrupting the vocal response then redirecting. This is called RIRD – Response Interruption/Redirection. In RIRD, when the child made an inappropriate vocalization, the teacher blocked them by interrupting immediately, then redirecting them to another behavior. The redirection involved prompts for vocal behavior such as saying “Where do you live?” or “Say ‘red.’” When a child made an appropriate vocalization, it was always followed by a teacher comment.

RIRD produced substantially lower rates of stereotypy for all four of the children and an increase in appropriate vocalizations for three of the children. One thing that is striking about these results is that “sessions were 5 min in duration, and two to three sessions were conducted 3 days per week.” This is a degree of time commitment that is replicable in the home or school environments.

If your child or student is presenting with stereotypy that interferes with learning, it is valuable to look at this study, as well as similar studies by Cassella, Sidener, Sidener, & Progar (2011) and Athens, Vollmer, Sloman, & Pipkin (2008). Consult with a BCBA or ABA provider for assistance in implementing the intervention.

Pick of the Week: ABA Curriculum for the Common Core for Kindergarten

We’re thrilled to introduce this pioneering curriculum kit containing both the materials and programs to teach each Kindergarten Common Core standard for both English Language Arts and Math. Authored by Sam Blanco, MSEd, BCBA, the curriculum has been created exclusively for students in special education settings using the evidence-based principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

We’re offering this robust curriculum kit for a limited-time introductory price of $499.95.

Completely unique, this kit contains a curriculum book that drills down into each standard and breaks it into teachable steps. Programs are presented in a format that supports data collection and ease of use. Each Common Core standard is presented on its own page with clear instructions detailing the Teaching Procedure, Discriminative Stimulus (Sd), and Materials required for teaching. Each standard lists several targets that demonstrate the component steps and skills required for mastery.

A thorough “how-to” guide presents the main tenets of ABA, giving staff an accessible understanding of Motivation and Reinforcement, Pairing, Prompting, Generalization, Natural Environment Teaching, Preference Assessment, and Data Collection. In addition, comprehensive Data Sheets are included, along with samples of how to complete them.

Our ABA Curriculum for the Common Core Kit comes with more than 24 quality, versatile manipulatives, flashcards, games and tools. The curriculum book explicitly explains how to use these materials to teach and generalize each standard. The materials included in the kit have been carefully selected to not only assess and teach each standard and prerequisite skill, but also be wonderful additions to any classroom setting. The materials can be used during more intensive group and one-to-one instruction, as well as during center time and independent play.

The goal of this curriculum kit is to make the Common Core standards accessible and relevant to students with autism and special needs. Additionally, by breaking each standard down and drilling into the prerequisite skills, the opportunity exists to use these Kindergarten programs for older students who are not developmentally able to meet grade-level standards. By equipping teachers with teachable steps for each and every standard and pairing the teaching with motivating, versatile materials, the ABA Curriculum for the Common Core Kit puts Kindergarten students in Special Education on the path to achieving success.

 You can also purchase today the Curriculum Book separately for only $64.95 $59.95. This curriculum book is best utilized in conjunction with our ABA Curriculum for the Common Core Kit: Kindergarten and explicitly explains how to use the materials presented in the kit to teach and generalize each standard. Soft Cover, 176 pages, by Sam Blanco, MSEd, BCBA.

 Special educators and consultants are already finding this to be an invaluable resource in the classroom.

 Advance Praise for the ABA Curriculum for the Common Core

 “ABA Curriculum for the Common Core is bound to be the type of reference book every special educator will be reaching for. With its comprehensive, accessible, and task-analyzed programs, ABA strategies, and data collection sheets, Sam Blanco has created a compilation dream for all educators working with children who have special needs.”
– Val Demiri, PhD, BCBA-D

“This highly organized and comprehensive curriculum is a must for all special education teachers working to implement the common core standards in the classroom. Every teacher and student need is anticipated and planned for. With this curriculum as a resource, the common core standards are no longer an obstacle, but instead an accessible program of study for all students.”
– Linda McSorley, Special Education Teacher

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Pick of the Week: Speaker’s Box – Expand expressive vocabulary & language

Ideal for auditory and visual learners, Speaker’s Box helps strengthen oral language skills in whole-class or small-group settings, as well as in one-on-one instruction. This week only, take 15% off* your order of Speaker’s Box by using promo code SPEAKER at checkout.

With Speaker’s Box, students reach into the box, choose a color-coded prompt card, and then start chatting. There are four color-coded categories included:

  • What’s Happening Here?/What Comes Next? has the students talk about what is going on in the picture or what might happen next.
  • Step by Step has students look at the picture and correlating question on the back to give detailed directions on how to do something.
  • Would You Rather? presents questions that students answer with a personal statement based on the first thing that comes to mind.
  • Things You Like Best also asks students questions about their preferences and to explain why.

This is a great teaching tool that fosters receptive and expressive language, peer interaction, perspective-taking, and more. The set includes eighty-six 2.5-inch square write & wipe-cards (14 are blank for customization) in a nifty storage box. This game is recommended for children ages 6 and up.

Don’t forget to use our promo code SPEAKER this week to save 15%* on your set of Speaker’s Box.

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EST on November 11th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Tip of the Week: Communicating with Paraprofessionals to Support Your Learner

Many students with autism and other developmental disabilities have an IEP that mandates a 1:1 paraprofessional (called an instructional assistant or teaching assistant in some states, but referred to as paraprofessional for the purposes of this article). Recently, I had the opportunity to provide a workshop to a large group of paraprofessionals in New York City. I was surprised to hear how some felt disconnected from the families of their students, especially considering how deep their relationships are with their students.

My conversations during that workshop caused me to reflect upon my own experience as a classroom teacher. Fortunately, I always had wonderful paraprofessionals who were essential to making the classroom run smoothly and helping our students achieve success, but I recognize now that they often were working with less information and less contact with the families than the teachers were. As a parent/guardian, you can help bridge that gap.

  • Communicate directly with the teacher and the paraprofessional. If you have critical information about your child, don’t assume that the teacher will share it with the paraprofessional. This can be important for big issues, such as allergies or new medicines, as well as smaller issues, such as an impending vacation or a sleepless night.
  • Share important goals with the paraprofessional. In many schools, the paraprofessional may never have seen your child’s IEP, though they frequently see your child for more time during each day. The paraprofessional also will usually see your child at times when the teacher will not, such as lunch and/or recess. If there are specific concerns about social skills, the paraprofessional likely has more opportunities for implementing social skills interventions than the teacher.
  • When you go to parent teacher conferences, ask both the teacher and the paraprofessional about your child’s performance in school. Because the paraprofessional sees the student in more environments, they may have more specific observations about transitions, special classes such as gym or art, and social interactions outside of the classroom.
  • Sometimes a student responds better to the paraprofessional than the teacher. If they do, find out why. The paraprofessional may be doing things that you and/or the teacher can replicate to help your child’s learning outcomes.
  • Show your appreciation for the paraprofessional. The job of a paraprofessional is very challenging: no preps, the need to adjust to each teacher’s style throughout the day, and the fact that they often end up managing any behavioral challenges during the day. A note of thanks can go a long way. And if you are the type of parent who gives small gifts or handmade items to teachers, don’t leave the paraprofessional out!

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA

Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-12 in NYC. Working in education for ten years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam has developed strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently pursuing her PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College.

Pick of the Week: Social Skills Games to Teach What’s “Just Right”

People communicate using not only words, but also tone of voice and body language. Many children, however, fail to notice these relatively subtle social cues in self-expression and personal space. This week, we’re featuring two of our newest social skills games, Too Much, Too Little, Just Right and Too Close, Too Far, Just Right to help you teach your learners what is “just right” in social situations. Use our promo code JUSTRIGHT to save 15%* on your sets!

Too Much, Too Little, Just Right teaches children to pay attention to tone of voice, observe body language, and note how these cues affect the message. Children assume two roles during game play: Messenger and Listener. They learn by observing others and by getting immediate feedback about their own expressive abilities. They learn to adjust volume, expression, gestures, and other physical cues in order to communicate effectively and achieve greater self-control, thus developing more appropriate and satisfying social relationships.

Ideal for 2 to 8 players, this game can be easily used with larger groups or classrooms as well. Because it focuses on social interaction rather than on a game board, the game can be played virtually anywhere. Clearly focused and easy-to-use, Too Much, Too Little, Just Right is an outstanding tool for those working with children who have autism spectrum disorders. The game includes: 45 Too Much/Too Little/Just Right Cards, 90 Message Cards, 64 Action Cards, 50 Response Cards, 100 Reward Chips, and 1 Feedback Express-O-Meter. Recommended for children ages 5-12 years.

Too Close, Too Far, Just Right teaches what’s “too close,” “too far,” or “just right” in social situations. Children take turns performing social scenarios described on the Role Play Cards, and then the instructor or group of students decides whether their proximity to each other is appropriate for the particular situation. The objective is to understand the concept the personal space. Focused and engaging, this game is a gentle way to help students with autism and ADHD grasp the idea of appropriate proximity and physical boundaries and thereby improve their relationships. The game includes 65 Role Play Cards, 24 color-coded Feedback Cards, 3 “Where do I stand?” Cards, 1 Footprint Mat, and 1 booklet with instructions, game preparations and play, and variations on game play with a large group or class. Recommended for children ages 5 and up.

Don’t forget to save 15%* on your order of Too Much, Too Little, Just Right or Too Close, Too Far, Just Right this week by using promo code JUSTRIGHT when you check out online or over the phone with us!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on November 4th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Registration Open for Bridge Kids of NY’s Specialized Social Groups – Winter Session

If you’re in NYC, you must check out these Specialized Social Groups offered by the wonderful folks at Bridge Kids of NY. With a team of professionals who strive to improve the quality of everyday living for children and families, BKNY presents several fun and interactive social groups to support children in their social, communication, and behavioral growth. Below are two groups in which you can now enroll your child for the upcoming winter session:

Bridge Kids Social Circle
This fun and interactive group meets on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and is a 50-minute social skills group for children ages 2–5 years who experience difficulty in socializing with peers. Through play and group activities a qualified therapeutic team will focus on key social behaviors such as:

  • Eye-Contact
  • Taking Turns/Sharing
  • Understanding Personal Boundaries
  • Utilizing Appropriate Social Language
  • Initiating and Maintaining Social Interactions

Bridge Kids Happy Eaters Group
This group meets on Tuesdays or Thursdays, and is designed for our little ones who are “picky eaters”. If your child often refuses new foods, presents with a limited range of accepted foods, and/or engages in problematic behavior surrounding mealtimes, these skilled therapists can help! This group focuses on:

  • Creating Positive Mealtime
  • Experiences
  • Introducing New and Nutritious Foods
  • Healthy Exploration of Food
  • Simple Food Preparation
  • Supporting a Healthy Mind and Tummy

Register your child now in these specialized social groups for the upcoming winter session. Both groups meet for 10 sessions each at 4:00 PM on Tuesdays or Thursdays.

Increasing Play with Unit Blocks – Free Download

Blocks PileSymbolic play refers to a child’s ability to use one object or action to represent a different object or action within imaginary play. The symbolic play skill that involves object substitution typically begins to emerge around 18 months. For example, you might observe a child using an empty box for a “hat” or an overturned bucket for a “drum.” Blocks are a mainstay in early childhood classrooms because the benefits are innumerable. Block play can help to facilitate cooperation, visuo-spatial skills, problem solving ability, social skills, and language development, and is a good predictor of future mathematical abilities.

One hallmark of the diagnostic criteria for autism spectrum disorder is a presence of “persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, as manifested by difficulties in sharing imaginative play or in making friends.” Additionally, rigid thinking patterns may make symbolic play difficult for children with autism as they might view objects in a limited way that makes it difficult to pretend a block is something other than a block. Blocks on ShelfSince unit blocks are a huge component of early childhood classrooms everywhere one could imagine that exposure to them and some level of proficiency opens up huge social opportunities for learners with autism spectrum disorders with their mainstream peers in the classroom.

Some learners will require scaffolding in order to progress from the use of literal props within pretend play to object substitutions. Research suggests that systematic prompting is a common component of successful interventions used for teaching play.  Depending on the learner, various types of prompts will be used as you systematically move from most intrusive to least intrusive prompt levels. Sometimes, a learner begins to respond to natural cues before you have moved through each prompt level. However, for learners that require support froma visual prompt you can attach drawings of objects onto the blocks and then systematically fade them out. Once the learner begins to consistently use the blocks with the attached images you can use stimulus fading procedure to fade out the visual prompt. This can be done by photocopying the image and systematically changing the lightness until eventually the learner is presented with just the block.

Below you will find downloadable images in the shape of unit blocks to help you facilitate symbolic play with a learner who requires visual prompts. The images are to scale and just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all of the possibilities. It is important to teach various object substitutions for each block shape so that the skill is generalized. In a classroom where the curriculum is organized thematically, you could attach a few visuals to various blocks each time the theme changes to encourage symbolic play for the whole class.

Click here to download our Free Unit Blocks Template!

References

Cook, D. (1996). Mathematics sense making and role play in the nursery school. Early Childhood Development and Care, 121, 55-65.

Wolfgang, C., Stannard, L. & Jones, I. (2001). Block play performance among preschoolers as a predictor of later school achievement in mathematics. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 15(20): 173-180.

Smilansky, S., & Shefatya, L. (1990). Facilitating play: A medium for promoting cognitive, socioemotional and academic development in young children. Gaithersburg, MD: Psychosocial & Educational Publications.

Christakis, D.A., Zimmerman F.J., & Garrison M.M. (2007). Effect of block play on language acquisition and attention in toddlers: a pilot randomized controlled trial. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 161(10):967-71.

Pepler, D.J., & Ross, H.S. (1981(. The effects of play on convergent and divergent problem solving. Child Development, 52(4): 1202-1210.

Lang, R., O’Reilly, M., Rispoli, M., Shogren, K., et al. (2009). Review of interventions to increase functional and symbolic play in children with autism. Education and Training in Developmental Disabilities, 44(4), 481– 492.

Cooper, J. O., Heron, T. E., & Heward, W. L. (2007). Applied behavior analysis, 2nd ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall.


Written by Stacy Asay, LMSW

Stacy is a licensed social worker, providing home and school based services to children and their families in the New York City area. With nearly 16 years of experience, her work with special needs children integrates a strengths-based, holistic approach to child and family augmented with the tools of Applied Behavior Analysis, a methodology that allows for reliable measurement, objective evaluation of behaviors, and the systematic teaching of language and learning skills.  This results in an individualized curriculum that equips children with the tools they need for learning and living while honoring their unique spirit.