Tip of the Week: Teaching Language—Focus on the Stage, Not the Age

CHILD IN SPEECH THERAPYTeaching language skills is one of the most frequent needs for children with autism, but also one of the most misunderstood skillsets amongst both parents and practitioners. The desire to hear your learner speak in full sentences can be overwhelming, making it especially difficult to take a step back and consider what it means to communicate and how communication skills develop in neurotypical children. Many times we get hung up on what a child should be capable of communicating at a certain age, rather than focusing on what they are capable of communicating at this stage of development.

Many practitioners and curricula utilize Brown’s Stages of Language Development.* Brown described the first five stages of language development in terms of the child’s “mean length of utterance” (or MLU) as well as the structure of their utterances.

Brown_Grammatical_Structures_ChartFrom aacinstitute.org

 

Sometimes it is necessary to compare a child to his or her same-age peers in order to receive services or measure progress, but it can be detrimental to focus on what a child should be doing at a specific age instead of supporting them and reinforcing them for progress within their current stage.

Research has suggested that teaching beyond the child’s current stage results in errors, lack of comprehension, and difficulty with retention. Here are some common errors you may have witnessed:

  • The child learns the phrase “I want _____ please.” This phrase is fine for “I want juice, please” or “I want Brobee, please,” but it loses meaning when overgeneralized to “I want jump, please” or “I want play, please.” It’s better to allow your learner to acquire hundreds of 1-2 word mands (or requests) before expecting them to speak in simple noun+verb mands.
  • The child learns to imitate only when the word “say” is used. Then the child makes statements such as “say how are you today,” as a greeting or “say I’m sorry,” when they bump into someone accidentally. Here, the child clearly has some understanding of when the phrases should be used without understanding the meanings of the individual words within each phrase.
  • The child learns easily overgeneralized words such as “more.” This is useful at times, but the child can start using it for everything. Instead of saying “cookie” he’ll say “more.” Instead of saying “train,” he’ll say “more.” And he may say “more” when the desired item is not present, leaving the caregiver frustrated as he/she tries to guess what the child is requesting. Moreover, as language begins to develop, he may misuse it by saying things such as “more up, please.”
  • The child learns to say “Hello, how are you today?” upon seeing a person entering a room. A child comes into the classroom and the learner looks up, says “Hello, how are you today?” The child responds, “Great! Look at the cool sticker I got!” Your learner then doesn’t respond at all, or may say “fine,” as he has practiced conversations of greeting.

These are only a few of the common language errors you may see. While you may want your learner to speak in longer sentences, your goal should be to have them communicate effectively. With this goal in mind, it becomes essential to support them at their current stage, which means it’s essential to assess them and understand how to help them make progress.

This is why I always use the VB-MAPP to assess each child and make decisions about language instruction. I need to have a full understanding of how the learner is using language, and then move them through each stage in a clear progression. I may want the child to say “Hello, how are you today?” But when I teach them that, do they understand those individual words? Do they comprehend what today means as opposed to yesterday or tomorrow? Do they generalize the use of “how” to other questions?

As you make treatment decisions for your learner, think about their current stage and talk about how to support your child with both a Speech Language Pathologist and an ABA therapist.

*Brown, R. (1973). A first language: The early stages. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.

WRITTEN BY SAM BLANCO, MSED, BCBA
Sam is an ABA provider for students ages 3-15 in NYC. Working in education for twelve years with students with Autism Spectrum Disorders and other developmental delays, Sam utilizes strategies for achieving a multitude of academic, behavior, and social goals. Sam is currently a PhD candidate in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College. She is also a lecturer in the ABA program at The Sage Colleges.

 

 

Teaching Social Skills to Teens on the Spectrum

This week, we’re pleased to share a piece from Kirt Manecke, author of one of our newest additions Smile & Succeed for Teenswho offers his advice and take on how to teach teens and tweens very important social skills such as handshaking and saying “please,” “thank you,” and “you’re welcome.”

Please, Thank You, and You’re Welcome:
Teaching Social Skills to Teens on the Spectrum

by Kirt Manecke

Saying “please”, “thank you”, and “you’re welcome” are extremely important for social and job interactions. Why then is it so rare to hear these words spoken by teens and tweens? I recently had breakfast with my friend and his two kids, who are 12 and 16, at a restaurant. Both kids frequently failed to say please, thank you or you’re welcome to the waitress. I found myself saying thank you to the waitress for them! Their father did not seem to notice their lack of manners.

Research from Harvard University (Deming, 2015) says social skills are the top factor for getting a job. In my former life, when hiring teens for my specialty retail business, I looked for friendly teens with good social skills. Teens who smiled and said “please” and “thank you” were often the ones I hired. I knew they could engage customers and keep them happy and coming back. Often, we are drawn to making friends with people who have these same good social skills.

Teaching Social Skills to Teens on the Spectrum

Social skills are especially difficult for teens on the autism spectrum, but many of these skills can be learned, and with practice, can become habit. Social skills are critical to make friends, get a job, and to live a fulfilling life.

Recently I helped some teens and tweens with autism prepare to sell products at a local farmers’ market. I acted as the customer in the initial role playing scenarios and found that the kids did not say “please”, “thank you” or “you’re welcome”. I then used information from my book Smile & Succeed for Teens: Must-Know People Skills for Today’s Wired World to teach them these skills. We took turns being the customer and the employee while role-playing how to say “please”, “thank you” and “you’re welcome”. Using their new social skills, the kids were able to sell chips and salsa at the local farmers’ market the next day.

You can do the same type of role playing with your kids. To improve their social skills, role play the skill with them. For example, have your teen or tween read the section, “Shake Hands Firmly.” Then, practice shaking hands with them, being sure to show them how “Too Tight”, “Too Loose” and “Just Right” feels.

I spent nine months meeting with teens to get their input for the book, and that’s a big reason teens and tweens find it appealing and are reading it. The font is large enough to make reading easy, plus there are fun, informative illustrations with educational captions every few pages.

Since, the book has received praise from teachers and school administrators, as well as Temple Grandin, author of Thinking in Pictures, and The Autistic Brain, who called me one evening after reading Smile & Succeed for Teens. She urged me to use her testimonial, “Smile & Succeed for Teens is a fantastic resource to help teens be successful at work”, to get the book out to all teens and tweens.

A firm grasp on social skills is key to maneuvering through all stages of life. Mastering these skills boosts teens’ confidence and gives them the skills they need to succeed in school, work and relationships. Please share the following book excerpt with your teen or tween to give them a head start in mastering these important social skills.

REFERENCES

Deming, D.J. (2015). The growing importance of social skills in the labor market (Working Paper No. 21473). Retrieved from National Bureau of Economic Research website: http://www.nber.org/papers/w21473.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kirt Manecke is a an award-winning author and sales, marketing, fundraising, and business development specialist with over 30 years of experience surprising and delighting customers. Kirt’s books have won 11 awards. Quick-easy social skills for teens! He spent nine months meeting with teens for his award-winning book on social skills for teens. Kirt is currently at work on two children’s books. For more information, contact Kirt at Kirtm@SmiletheBook.com.

Pick of the Week: NEW! FlipChex™ Social Studies Magnetic Games

Teach young learners all about the world around them with our new FlipChex™ Social Studies Magnetic Games! This week, you can take 15% off any FlipChex™ set by applying our promo code FLIPCHEX at check-out. Aligned to state and national science standards, these magnetic games are self-correcting and easy to use. Just place the five answer cards, flip the game strip, and check your answers!

Each colorfully-illustrated 25-piece magnetic set provides a perfect avenue for young children to learn about the wonders of the world around them. With FlipChex™ Social Studies Community Helpers, students explore the wide range of people and professions that make our society work, including workers in health care, at school, and in the community around them.

With Jobs People Do, students become aware that the world of work includes a very diverse range of jobs, and that different occupations are suited to different types of talents, skills, and interests.

Perfect for post-July 4th festivities, Around the U.S.A. teaches students many of the people, places, symbols, and events that have helped weave the fabric of the history and traditions of the United States.

Don’t forget to use our promo code FLIPCHEX at check-out this week to save 15% on any of these great matching games!

*Promotion is valid until July 12, 2016 at 11:59pm ET. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, combined with any other offers, transferred, refunded, or redeemed and/or exchanged for cash or credit. Different Roads to Learning reserves the right to change or cancel this promotion at any time. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code FLIPCHEX at checkout.

Pick of the Week: NEW! Cooperative Games — Teach teamwork and group problem-solving

NEW to our catalog are a set of cooperative games that foster teamwork, shared decision-making, and many more valuable skills, as learners work together to solve a common obstacle in the games. This week, you can save 15% on these cooperative games by using our promo code TEAMWORK at check-out.

Cooperative Games Subheader

In cooperative games, everyone plays together, no one is left out, and everyone has fun! Players work together as a team against a common obstacle, not against each other. Cooperative games emphasize play, not competition. Kids work together, they help each other and, most importantly, they play for fun! Cooperative games teach:

  • Emotional development
  • Shared decision making
  • Creative problem solving
  • A sense of community
  • Positive self-esteem
  • Playfulness
  • Cooperation

For kids who love dinosaurs, the Dinosaur Escape Game is a perfect way to teach strategy, memory, problem-solving, and following directions, as players work together to move all three dinosaurs safely to Dinosaur Island before the volcano erupts. Roll the die, move the dinosaurs around the board, uncover the matching dinosaurs under the fern tokens. But if you turn over the T-Rex, run! If players can find and help all three lost dinosaurs escape to Dinosaur Island before completing the 3-D volcano puzzle, everyone wins!

DRG_014_Dinosaur_Escape_Game_Board

The game comes with 1 game board, 3 dinosaur movers, 1 die, 12 fern tokens, 5 volcano puzzle pieces and volcano stand.

Younger learners will have an enjoyable time with the Friends and Neighbors Helping Game, as they work together to make matches between characters in distress and ways to help them!  Can players help a little girl who’s sad because she’s standing out in the rain, or a boy who’s afraid of the dark? Children encounter characters with a problem and reach into the Helping Bag to pull out a token — can the token help someone on the game board? If so, it’s a match!

In playing the game and reading about the feelings and needs of the characters, parents can help their children recognize feelings in others — the first step to building empathy. The game comes with 4 game boards, 14 tokens, 1 Helping Bag, 1 Stop Sign board, parent guide, and a Friends and Neighbors book.

Don’t forget! You can take 15% off either of these new cooperative games by applying our promo code TEAMWORK when you place your order online or over the phone with us at (800) 853-1057.

*Promotion is valid until July 5, 2016 at 11:59pm ET. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, combined with any other offers, transferred, refunded, or redeemed and/or exchanged for cash or credit. Different Roads to Learning reserves the right to change or cancel this promotion at any time. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code TEAMWORK at checkout.

Pick of the Week: NEW! Super Duper Flashcards & Fun Decks — Teach parts of speech, vocab & more

We’ve added a bunch of new Super Duper® flashcards and fun decks to our collection! This week, you can save 15% on any of these select card decks that teach parts of speech and vocabulary — everything from nouns and irregular verbs to prepositions and synonyms! Use our promo code SUPERJUNE to redeem your savings at check-out.

With the Webber BIG Vocabulary Nouns Photo Cards, students will learn how to name, describe, identify attributes, compare and contrast, and formulate sentences in conversation with 600 vivid photo cards. This enormous set contains 5″ x 7″ photo cards that cover 14 different categories: Alphabet (26 cards); Animals (68 cards); Around the Home (80 cards); Clothing and Accessories (55 cards); Colors (12 cards); Food (83 cards); Numbers (11 cards); Occupations (46 cards); Places (70 cards); Plants (20 cards); School (38 cards); Shapes (7 cards); Toys (36 cards); Transportation (34 cards).

 

 

Synonyms Photo Fun Deck contains 28 pairs of photo cards to teach synonyms. Each pair of photo cards helps illustrate one sentence using two synonyms. This set also comes with game ideas for extra practice!

Each of the cards measures 2½” x 3½” and all come stored in a sturdy storage tin.

 

 

Irregular Verbs Fun Deck is a wonderful resource for teaching past and present tense for 26 irregular verbs pairs. Students will learn the ins and outs of “eat/ate,” “buy/bought,” “spend/spent,” and so much more. This illustrated fun deck will make teaching these difficult verbs fun and accessible for learners of all ages!

 

 

Don’t forget to use our discount code SUPERJUNE at check-out this week to save 15% on any of our select Super Duper card decks! View the entire sale here.

*Promotion is valid through June 28, 2016 at 11:59pm ET. Offer cannot be applied to previous purchases, combined with anyother offers, transferred, refunded, or redeemed and/or exchanged for cash or credit. Different Roads to Learning reserves the right to change or cancel this promotion at any time. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code SUPERJUNE at checkout.

Pick of the Week: Social Skills Games for Special Needs

Help students who are struggling with interpreting social situations, reading facial expressions, noticing body language, and understanding idioms and other metaphorical forms of speech with these great social skills games and cards sets. This week, you can also save 15% on any of these games by using our promo code JUSTRIGHT at check-out!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Set of 6 Social Skills Board Games targets good social skills and behavior. The six games included in the set cover Morals, Manners, Empathy, Showing Emotions, Friendship, and Managing Emotions. Each game supports the development of social and emotional skills and the consolidation of those already learned.

Clue Cards aims to help students who are struggling with interpreting social situations, reading facial expressions, noticing body language, and understanding idioms and other metaphorical forms of speech. Because the cards are flexible and adaptable, they can be used with both younger and older children, with mild or sever socio-emotional difficulties.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With Too Close, Too Far, Just Right help kids learn 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. 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.

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.

I Feel Angry When… teaches children the important skills of learning how to keep their “cool” by expressing their anger in a nonthreatening way. Kids learn to respond in positive ways when they feel angry by using I-Messages, a verbal template that offers a way to communicate how you feel and what you want without offending others.

Social-Skills-Games-Sale_05

*Offer is valid for one-time use only through June 14, 2016 at 11:59pm ET. Not compatible with any other offers. Call our friendly customer service staff at (800) 853-1057 with any inquiries about this promotion. To redeem offer at differentroads.com, enter promo code JUSTRIGHT at checkout.

Using Smartphones and Tablets in Video Modeling For Autism

using smartphones and tablets in video modeling for autism

There are tons of articles and lists about the best apps for kids with autism. However, you may be missing out on one of the best possible uses of smartphones and tablets for improving services for your learner: the camera app that is already built into the device.

A wealth of research has shown the efficacy of using video modeling to teach children and adults with autism, to train staff on how to implement programs and procedures, and to train parents on interventions. Smartphones and tablets make creating such videos much easier than it was in the past. Here’s why you should be using smartphones and tablets for video modeling for autism, as well as a few things to consider:

  • Be sure you have named the steps of the procedure or program you are modeling. It may be helpful to have those steps written down for the person using the video model.
  • If you are a teacher or practitioner recording your learner, be sure you have consent from the individual’s guardian(s). Also, check in about any recording policies at your school or center.
  • If you are a parent struggling to implement an intervention, request that the teacher or practitioner create a video model. It’s helpful to see someone else doing and to be able to refer back to that video as necessary.
  • If you are taking video of your learner for the first time, you may want to set up the tablet or smartphone without taking video for a few sessions before you actually create the video model. This will help avoid problems with the learner changing his or her behavior because a new (and often desirable) object is in the environment.
  • Consult the literature! As I mentioned before, there is a huge amount of research on video modeling. In recent years, it has been used to teach children with autism to make requests (Plavnick & Ferreri, 2011), increase treatment integrity for teachers implementing interventions (DiGennaro-Reed, Codding, Catania, & Maguire, 2010), teach children how to engage in pretend play (MacDonald, Sacramone, Mansfield, Wiltz, & Ahearn, 2009), increase social initiations of children with autism (Nikopoulos & Keenan, 2004), and more.

With the easy-to-use technology at our fingertips every day, video modeling is a simple and efficient way to demonstrate a new skill. This basic use of smartphones and tablets should not be overlooked because it can have a huge impact on teaching learners with autism new skills or helping parents and staff implement stronger programs and interventions.

References

DiGennaro-Reed, F. D., Codding, R., Catania, C. N., & Maguire, H. (2010). Effects of video modeling on treatment integrity of behavioral interventions. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 43(2), 291–295.

MacDonald, R., Sacramone, S,. Mansfield, R., Witz, K., & Ahearn, W.H. (2009). Using video modeling to teach reciprocal pretend play to children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 42(1), 43–55.

Nikopoulous, C.K. & Keenan, M. (2004). Effects of video modeling on social initiations by children with autism. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 37(1), 93–96.

Plavnick, J. B., & Ferreri, S. J. (2011). Establishing verbal repertoires in children with autism using function-based video modeling. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 44(4), 747–766.

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 by Dr. Jed Baker – 20% Off!

Save on these fantastic social skills materials from Dr. Jed Baker this week! Just use our promo code SOCIAL20 at the check-out.

The Social Skills Picture Book is a photographic picture book that depicts children demonstrating various social skills broken down into concrete steps. This book looks at the importance of visual aides in teaching children with autism. Different methods of teaching social skills are outlined, explaining initial instruction, review and generalization of skills. Some of the skills illustrated include:

  • Sharing
  • Taking Turns
  • Tone of Voice
  • Asking to Play
  • Showing Understanding

A concluding chapter addresses promoting peer acceptance through sensitivity training programs for students of various age groups and school staff. This is a complete and practical resource on social skills training for students of all ages!

The Social Skills Training Manual is a comprehensive how-to manual for teaching and developing social and communication skills in students with Asperger Syndrome and related pervasive developmental disorders. This manual covers 70 social skills that most commonly cause difficulty for individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Each skill is presented with activity sheets listing how to demonstrate, practice and reinforce the skill, both in the classroom and at home, and also contains a reproducible handout.

 

“Be a Friend: Songs for Social Skills Training” contains 16 original songs that teach invaluable social skills on an audio CD. Research has shown that learning occurs more rapidly when children are highly motivated to attend. The catchy tunes include:

  1. Be A Friend
  2. Hello
  3. Personal Space
  4. Eye Contact
  5. Volume of Speech
  6. Sharing
  7. Turns
  8. Ask to Play
  9. Compromise
  10. Complement
  11. Sensitive Topics
  12. Teasing
  13. Accepting No
  14. Making Mistakes
  15. Calm Down
  16. Feelings

How Occupational Therapy Can Benefit ABA Programs

This month, we’re proud to feature a wonderful piece from the Association for Science in Autism Treatment (ASAT), written by Amy McGinnis Stango, MS, OTR, MS, BCBA, on the benefits of occupational therapy as a supplement to your child’s ABA program. Amy is a nationally registered occupational therapist and board certified behavior analyst, and provides consultative direct and consultative services to families, clinics and schools across the country and internationally. She is also the co-author of Assessing Language and Learning with Pictures (ALL PICS), an assessment tool designed to make administration of the VB-MAPP more accurate, efficient, and cost-effective for schools, clinics, agencies, and private practitioners.

To learn more about ASAT, please visit their website at www.asatonline.org. You can also sign up for ASAT’s free newsletter, Science in Autism Treatment, and like them on Facebook!


My child is enrolled in an ABA-based program where he also receives some OT services. How can occupational therapy benefit my child’s ABA program?

Answered by Amy McGinnis Stango, MS, OTR, MS, BCBA

How Occupational Therapy Can Benefit ABA ProgramsOccupational therapy (OT) can be beneficial as a supplemental treatment to your child’s ABA program. The goal of occupational therapy is to support an individual’s health and participation in life through engagement in occupations or everyday tasks (AOTA, 2008). The occupational therapy process begins with an evaluation. The evaluation helps to determine whether your child has met developmental milestones in a wide variety of occupations. The occupational therapy evaluation can help your child’s behavior analyst choose developmentally appropriate goals to be included in his ABA program. The OT evaluation may also be helpful in understanding why a child struggles with a particular task. For example, if your child struggles with handwriting, the evaluation can determine whether this difficulty stems from an inappropriate grasp, poor posture, muscle weakness, visual memory, or lack of eye-hand coordination. Pediatric occupational therapy typically addresses the following domains:

  • Play
  • Activities of Daily Living
  • Education
  • Social Participation

Play is the primary occupation of childhood and is often an area of need for children with autism. Occupational therapy can be effective in helping children learn new play skills (Stagnitti, O’Connor, & Sheppard, 2012). Many pediatric occupational therapists use a play-based approach to their sessions, exposing children to a variety of toys, games, and different ways to play. If your child engages in repetitive play behaviors or has limited interests, the occupational therapist may be helpful in finding other activities that share similar sensory properties of the toys your child already enjoys. Some of the sensory activities used in occupational therapy may function as reinforcers, which could be used in your child’s ABA sessions as well (McGinnis, Blakely, Harvey, Hodges & Rickards, 2013).

Occupational therapists typically include an assessment of activities of daily living (ADLs) as part of the evaluation. ADLs include those basic self-care tasks that an individual performs each day, such as eating, grooming, dressing, and using the bathroom. Occupational therapy can help to build the strength, coordination, and perception skills needed to perform these tasks. For example, if your child has oral motor deficits, occupational therapy can help your child learn the mouth movements necessary for chewing and drinking (Eckman, Williams, Riegel, & Paul, 2008; Gibbons, Williams, & Riegel, 2007). Occupational therapy can also help older children and adolescents learn more advanced ADLs, like independent bathing (Schillam, Beeman & Loshin, 1983). Occupational therapists are trained in identifying multiple ways to perform routine tasks, and can recommend an approach that will work best for your child and can be integrated into your routines at home (Kellegrew, 1998).

As individuals with autism age, occupational therapists can help teach skills that will lead to greater independence at home and in the community (McInerney & McInerney, 1992). These include preparing meals, managing money, shopping and using public transportation. Often these skills are more complex and may require an activity or task analysis that breaks the task down into simpler steps. With extensive training in developing task analyses, occupational therapists can share these analyses with your child’s ABA team so that skills can be taught across settings. If tasks are still difficult, an occupational therapist may recommend adaptive equipment to make a task easier. Occupational therapy can also help your child participate more fully in his or her educational program. Occupational therapy can help young children acquire tasks such as coloring and cutting (Case-Smith, Heaphy, Marr, Galvin, Koch, Ellis, & Perez, 1998), as well as help older children acquire skills such as handwriting (Denton, Cope, & Moser, 2006). If your child has difficulty moving through the school setting or actively participating in movement activities, occupational therapy can help your child develop functional mobility skills. Continue reading

Autism Awareness Month: Free Social Circles Program

Help teach your students on the spectrum about social distance and intimacy using this free Circles Program from the Geneva Centre for Autism! The program is based on six concentric circles that represent varying degrees of closeness, from the relationship one has with oneself to strangers.

circles 1

The program includes:

  • A reminder card that details the meaning of each concentric circle
  • Six individual circle cards that identify common behaviors, feelings and actions appropriate to each circle
  • As well as a tip sheet to help instructors use the visuals effectively

To download the reminder card, circle cards and tip sheet, click here and don’t forget to share what activities and visuals have helped your students’ social learning by leaving a comment below!