Autism Awareness Month: Free Social Skills Fortune Teller Activity

IMG_0882-764x1024While these fortune tellers may not be able to tell your future, they are sure to help your children with autism develop their social skills!  This free printable, created by Joel Shaul from Autism Teaching Strategies, makes social learning fun by having students pair up and offer conversation starters using a Social Skills Fortune Teller.  All you have to do is print, cut, fold and play!

The activity comes with separate templates to make six different fortune tellers.  Each of the templates help students work on the following skills:

  • Asking questions
  • Giving compliments
  • Talking about emotions
  • As well as self-help strategies for teasing and bullying.

For further tips, instructions for use, and to download this free printable, click here and don’t forget to share all the other fun ways you and your students have fun developing social skills by leaving a comment below!

Pick of the Week: “On My Own” Activity Kits

Teach important daily living, vocational, and social skills that pave the way to independence and success to young learners with these brand new On My Own activity kits. Early learners can follow the visual cues and step-by-step directions to complete activities and art projects related to a variety of skills in daily life, such as cooking, setting the table, and creating art projects that develop gross and fine motor skills.

This week only, use our promo code ONMYOWN to take 15%* off either the On My Own: Year-Round Art Fun or the On My Own: Art, Cooking & Life Skills learning kits.

In On My Own: Art, Cooking & Life Skills, each activity is shown completed and is followed by a checklist of materials along with the directions. Young learners will be able to complete the tasks independently as they develop important vocational and recreational skills.

In On My Own: Year-Round Art Fun, learners will get to complete various arts and crafts projects independently, pairing visual cues and text from 30 different activity cards, while gaining confidence.

Don’t forget to mention or apply our promo code ONMYOWN this week only to save 15%* on either or both of these learning kits when you check out online or over the phone with us!

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.

Guest Article: “Promoting Socialization in Children with Autism Through Play” by Julie Russell

We’re so pleased to bring you this guest post by Julie Russell, Educational Director at the Brooklyn Autism Center (BAC). BAC is a not-for-profit ABA school serving children aged 5–21. Here, Julie describes specific, simple strategies for promoting socialization in children on the spectrum.

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Promoting Socialization in Children with Autism Through Play
by Julie Russell, Brooklyn Autism Center

Socialization – defined as a continuing process where an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and appropriate skills – is a vital part of life. It is also a particularly difficult skill for individuals with autism. Children with autism often struggle with initiating conversation, requesting information, making contextual comments, and listening and responding to others. These difficulties can interfere with the development of friendships for children on the spectrum.

The best way to improve socialization in children with autism is to emphasize play. There are several strategies to teach play skills to children on the spectrum that can help them improve socialization and develop friendships.

One method of teaching socialization is to condition the typically-developing peer as a reinforcer by pairing the peer with items and activities that are reinforcing for the child with Autism. The peer can give the child with Autism a preferred edible or join in on a preferred activity for the child with autism. If Ben’s (the child with autism) favorite edible is Twizzlers and his preferred activity is completing a puzzle, Adam (his typically developing peer) can offer Ben a Twizzler and join in on completing the puzzle. The typically developing peer is then associated with both the preferred edible and the preferred activity, making Adam a reinforcer for Ben.

This method is a great way to make the peer more desirable for the child with autism. The items or activities used for conditioning should only consist of items/activities that the child with autism already enjoys. When trying to introduce a new item or activity to the child with autism, peers should not be included right away. Trying to teach how to play with the item and the peer simultaneously can be confusing and over-stimulating for the child with autism. The child with autism should first be taught how to play appropriately with the age-appropriate activity during individual instruction, and then the peer can be included in the activity once mastery of the activity has been demonstrated.

Another way to promote socialization is to engage the child with autism in cooperative games, or any activity that requires interaction where each child has a role that is needed in order to complete the activity. This way, the motivation to engage with the typically developing peer will be higher. When teaching the child with autism how to play cooperative games, such as board games, you can include teaching skills that target turn taking and sharing. Children with autism (or any child) may have difficulties with giving up preferred items/activities, so these may be challenging skills to teach. In order to teach these skills with success, begin by having the child with autism share and take turns with non-preferred items/activities, then gradually fade in more highly preferred items to take turns and share.

Evidence-based practices such as social stories, peer modeling, and video modeling are also excellent methods to promote socialization in children with autism. Reading social stories and watching “expert” peers interact will allow children with autism to view and understand appropriate behavior before interacting with a new peer or practicing skills such as turn-taking, requesting information, and listening and responding to others.

All of the above methods of promoting socialization are used in Brooklyn Autism Center’s after school program BAC Friends, which pairs our students with typically developing peers from neighboring elementary and middle schools. We also provide additional opportunities for our students to practice peer socialization (along with academic work) during our reverse inclusion program with Hannah Senesh Community Day School. These methods combined with enthusiastic peers have helped our students improve their socialization skills and develop meaningful friendships.

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WRITTEN BY JULIE RUSSELL, MS, BCBA

Julie holds an M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts and received her BCBA in 2009. She has over 10 years of experience working with children with autism and related developmental differences in centers, schools, school districts and home-based programs. Julie received her supervision hours for board certification in behavior analysis by Dr. Nathan Blenkush, Ph.D., BCBA from JRC in Boston, Massachusetts. She was a Clinical Supervisor at ACES (Center for Applied Behavior Analysis) in San Diego California and Clinical Supervisor at the ELIJA School in Levittown, NY before joining the Brooklyn Autism Center as Educational Director.

Modified Instructions for Parachute Play

We’re excited to bring you the sixth installment of our series of Modified Instructions, created by Sam Blanco, BCBAIn this installment, we’re introducing Sam’s Modified Instructions for Parachute Play. Our bright and colorful parachutes are perfect for motivating young learners during the summer holidays.

   6ft-Parachute 12ft-Parachute

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Pick of the Week: I Can Do That! – Learn prepositions and self-awareness with a Dr. Seuss classic!

Practice motor skills, learn prepositions, and develop self-confidence with the award-winning Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! Game. This week only, save 15%* on your order of the I Can Do That! Game by entering or mentioning promo code CATHAT4 at check-out!

This wacky, fun-filled game will have young players moving all about as the Cat in the Hat comes to play. Flip over three cards to create a new challenge. Can you slide under the Trick-a-ma-stick with the toy boat on your head, or jump up and down with the cake between your elbows? Players will have a blast as they practice early reading skills and develop motor skills, understanding of prepositions, and self-confidence.

The game comes with: 1 Trick-a-ma-stick, 9 game pieces of objects straight from the Cat in the Hat story (e.g. cake, fish, boat, ball, book, gown, fan, toy man, rake), 1 sand timer, 33 game cards, and 1 manual.

Remember to redeem your 15% savings* on the Cat in the Hat I Can Do That! Game this week by using promo code CATHAT4 at check-out!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on July 22, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Pick of the Week: Parachute Play—Reinforce a Variety of Skills with Summer Fun & Games

Parachute-6footThe end of the school year means more sunshine and fun outdoors. Start the summer holidays with our bright and colorful parachute, and save 15%* when you order it this week with promo code PCHUTE2! The parachute comes in two different sizes—our 6-foot parachute fits up to 6 (pictured left) and our 12-foot parachute (pictured at the bottom) fits up to 8 children for play.

Parachute Play has something for every child. You can teach colors, peer play, and basic prepositions of “over” and “under”. Children love sweeping the parachute up in the air and watching it flutter down. Best of all, it’s just plain fun for all of us!

And if you’re feeling like you should be focusing on school readiness and not play, the Parachute can help there too! You can download a copy of our Modified Instructions for Parachute Play written by our BCBA Sam Blanco for a variety of games modified for learners of different levels. Below are also some of Sam’s tips on various skills that can be reinforced with the simple yet wondrous parachute:

  • Manding (Requesting) – I frequently use a parachute to have my early learners mand for actions. For example, I’ll have the learner lie down on the parachute, then they have to mand for me to “pick up the handle,” “swing,” “ready, set, go,” or “stop.” I also use the parachute (or a blanket) to teach early learners with autism how to request a parent’s attention. I will have the parent hide behind the parachute, and when the child says “Mommy” or “Daddy” the parent will drop the parachute so he/she is immediately visible and give the child lots of attention in the form of tickles, kisses, verbal praise, etc.
  • Comparisons/Adjectives – To help students understand the concept of big and little, I will have the children stand around the sides of the parachute holding onto it with their hands. I will place an object on the parachute, and we will bounce the parachute up and down to try to get the object to fall into the hole in the center of the parachute. Some objects will fall, but some will be too big to fall into the hole. I will ask the students why the object fell or did not fall.
  • Sorting – I will place several colorful objects on the parachute. We will then bounce the parachute up and down playfully. After a 30 seconds to a minute, we will put the parachute back on the floor, and the student will have to move each object onto a panel of the parachute that matches in color.
  • Identifying Body Parts – Because the parachute has a hole in the middle, I will sometimes use it for identifying body parts. The learner can lie down on the floor. Then I will put the parachute on top of them. I’ll pretend I’m looking for them (for example, “Where is Charlie?”) Then I’ll position the parachute so that one part (such as their hand or their nose) is clearly visible. I’ll lightly touch it and say “What is that?” and have the student label nose or hand or elbow, etc. Once the learner has an idea of the game, I may let them initiate it, or have them say “Find my nose” and I’ll place the parachute so their nose is visible.
  • Song Fill-ins – I like to sing songs while shaking or spinning the parachute. For students with autism or other language delays who struggle with this skill, the parachute can be a great motivator to help with song fill-ins and other intraverbal skills. I will sing the song while shaking or spinning the parachute, and I’ll stop singing AND moving the parachute when I want the child to fill in a word. As soon as the child fills in the word, I will begin singing and moving the parachute again. For many students, this is more motivating than a high five or saying “good job.”
  • Quick Responding – If you are working with learners with autism, the absence of quick responding is sometimes a serious barrier to learning. I have found that using the parachute is a good way to motivate the student to respond quickly when presented with at ask by using it as described above with the song fill-ins. Once I am getting quick responding with the parachute, I quickly begin to work on generalizing the skill to other environments (such as the table or during a floor activity).

Don’t forget to save 15%* this week only on your Parachute when you enter or mention promo code PCHUTE2 at check out!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm EDT on July 8th, 2014. Not compatible with any other offers. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at check out!

Data Sheets Now Available for Hooray for Play!

I get pretty excited about pretend play and it isn’t unusual for me to engage colleagues at length in a conversation about how it can be incorporated into a learner’s home program using naturalistic behavioral methods. I can go on and on about all of the various play schemas that can be taught, my observations regarding which play schemas are of the greatest interest to the learner’s peer group at the moment, and regular items from around the house that can be incorporated as props.

The Hooray for Play! cards break down all of this information into a framework that is easy to reference and remember. Additionally, the simple illustrations provide visual stimuli to facilitate conversation about various schemas, to prime a student before play begins, or to help facilitate choice during pretend play. However, it isn’t long into our conversation when my colleagues ask, “What about the data?” Of course, this is where the conversation ends up because in an ABA program, all decisions are data-driven and based on observable and clearly defined target behaviors. However, with something as fluid as pretend play, it can sometimes feel a bit daunting to break the play down into smaller parts without scripting it completely.

The Hooray for Play! Data Sheets allow for the most salient elements of a play schema to be taught while still leaving room for variation and flexibility, which can be critical when generalizing to peers. Additionally, the targets are not predetermined so that they can be individualized for the learner. Below, you will find an example of the data sheet with some rows filled in to illustrate what it might look like. A blank version is also available in the set, so that it can be individualized for a specific learner.

HoorayForPlay_DataSheets_Example

There are a variety of techniques founded in the science of Applied Behavior Analysis that are effective in increasing and improving play skills. Research-based procedures can range from very structured to more naturalistic and should be chosen based on an approach best suited for the learner.

Some examples include:

  • Video Modeling
  • Play Scripts
  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
  • Peer Training

References:
Charlop-Christy, M. H., Le, L., & Freeman, K. A. (2000). A comparison of video modeling with in vivo modeling for teaching children with autism. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30 (6), 537-552.

Goldstein, H. & Cisar, C.L. (1992). Promoting interaction during sociodramatic play: teaching scripts to typical preschoolers and classmates with disabilities. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 25, 265–80.

Koegel, L.K., Koegel, R.L., Harrower, J.K. & Carter, C.M. (1999). Pivotal response intervention. I: Overview of approach. Journal of the Association for Persons with Severe Handicaps, 25, 174-85.

Stahmer, A.C. (1999). Using pivotal response training to facilitate appropriate play in children with autistic spectrum disorders. Child Language Teaching and Therapy, 15, 29–40.

Pierce, K. & Schreibman, L. (1997). Using peer trainers to promote social behavior in autism: Are they effective at enhancing multiple social modalities? Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 12, 207–18.

Pick of the Week: Jumbo Magnetic Spin Wheel & Spinners – Transform Your Classroom Whiteboard!

Teachers, transform your classroom whiteboard into an interactive, whole-class game space with the Jumbo Magnetic Spin Wheel or the Magnetic Whiteboard Spinners. Simply place the spinners on your whiteboard and use dry-erase markers to create the games and activities or use the the spin wheel with its colorful accompanying templates to set up the class activities you need—the possibilities are limitless! This week, save 15%* on your order of one or both of our featured products—the Jumbo Magnetic Spin Wheel and Whiteboard Spinners, when you apply our code SPINZ8 at checkout!   

The jumbo 16″ Magnetic Spin Wheel comes with 3 double-sided write-on/wipe-off templates (right) that contain 4, 6, 8, 12, and 32 sections, along with a blank, to enable complete customization.

You can organize and manage classroom tasks from assigning responsibilities to choosing students and activities.

Create interactive learning games for a fun spin on subject-specific review and reinforcement. The includedTeacher Guide contains 16 math, language arts, readiness, and classroom management activity suggestions.

The set of Whiteboard Spinners includes three giant 11″ spinners (below) that help turn your whiteboard into a custom game or activity for the whole class.  Draw a circle, write in content, attach a spinner, and play!
    

This week only, save 15%* when you order the Jumbo Magnetic Spin Wheel and/or the Magnetic Whiteboard Spinners and use our promo code SPINZ8 at checkout!

*Offer is valid until 11:59pm ET on May 20, 2014. Good for one-time use only. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at checkout!

Happy Mother’s Day! Add a Free Gift from Us to Your Order

Mothers Day Banner

Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at Different Roads to Learning!

We have the utmost admiration for all of the moms out there who tirelessly strive to give their children the best life possible. Whatever life throws at you, you handle it with strength and humor.

To wish you a Happy Mother’s Day, here’s a free gift: Get a free deck of Hooray for Play! with any order over $25.00. Use promo code MOM2014 at checkout to add your free set to your order. Orders must be placed by Monday, May 12, 2014 at 11:59 ET.

This deck of cards is wonderful for parents to work one-on-one with their children in developing social and play skills. Hooray for Play! is a multi-use deck of 31 beautifully illustrated cards that offer children an opportunity for perspective taking, problem solving, cooperation, social emotional skill acquisition, and language development. These cards are broken down into 3 components: Do!, Say!!, and Play!!! to explain roles with scripted statements and suggestions for props and set-up to help you fully play out the illustration on each card.

We hope you will take this chance to try out Hooray for Play! with your child when you place your order with promo code MOM2014 at checkout.

*This offer is valid until 11:59pm ET on Monday, May 12, 2014. Orders must have a minimum value of $25 USD before taxes and shipping fees in order to qualify for the free set. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code at checkout!