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.

 

 

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.

Celebrate Better Speech & Hearing Month with Us – 15% OFF Workbooks!

We’re celebrating Better Speech & Hearing Month with a special focus on auditory processing and expressive language skills. Today through the end of May, use our promo code SPCHLANG when you check out to take 15%* off some of our favorite speech and language workbooks!

These workbooks provide a wealth of activities that you can start using with your students immediately. Clearly organized and easy to use, each book is perfect for teachers.

View our entire sale here.

*Promotion is valid until May 31, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. 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 SPCHLANG at checkout.

 

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!

The Social Problem-Solving Model: Promoting Greater Social Independence – Part II

In continuing our exclusive social problem-solving series, Drs. Gordon and Selbst, developers of the new POWER-Solving® Curriculum, have addressed the importance of social information processing as a framework for understanding how children and adolescents get along with their peers and adults.

The Social Problem-Solving Model: Promoting Greater Independence – Part II
Steven B. Gordon, PhD, ABPP & Michael C. Selbst, PhD, BCBA-D

Social Information Processing (SIP) is a widely studied framework for understanding why some children and adolescents have difficulty getting along with their peers and adults.

A well-known SIP model developed by Crick and Dodge (1994) describes six stages of information processing that individuals cycle through when responding to a particular social situation:

  1. encoding (attending to and encoding the relevant cues);
  2. interpreting (making a judgment about what is going on);
  3. clarifying goals (deciding what their goal is in the particular situation);
  4. generating responses (identifying different behavioral strategies for attaining the decided upon goal);
  5. deciding on the response (evaluating the likelihood that each potential strategy will help reach their goal, and choosing which strategy to implement);
  6. and performing the response (doing the chosen response).

These steps operate in real time and frequently outside of conscious awareness. Many studies have demonstrated that children and adolescents have deficits at multiple stages of the SIP model which impact their development of appropriate peer interactions and the development of aggressive behaviors (Lansford, Malone, Dodge, Crozier, Pettit and Bates, 2006).

As a result, they have difficulty attending to and interpreting social cues, adopting pro-social goals and utilizing safe, effective and non-aggressive strategies to handle conflict situations. The development of strong social skills has been shown to contribute to the initiation and maintenance of positive relationships with others.

POWER-Solving BooksThe POWER-Solving® Curriculum (Selbst and Gordon, 2012) is heavily influenced by the components of the SIP model as seen in the five steps of POWER-Solving, easily learned in the acronym POWER:

  • Put the problem into words;
  • Observe your feelings;
  • Work out your goal;
  • Explore possible solutions;
  • Review your plan

The curriculum is comprised of several modules, each with their own materials for facilitators and students. While it is critical for the student to learn the POWER-Solving® Steps first (i.e., the “toolbox”), the facilitator can determine the sequence of the subsequent modules. For example, one may prefer to move to the Anger Management module after the introduction. Alternatively, one may decide to move to Social Conversation or Developing Friendships. The goal is for students to learn valuable POWER-Solving skills that they can apply to an infinite number of social situations throughout their lives.

REFERENCES

Crick, N.R., & Dodge, K.A. (1994). A review and reformulation of social information-processing mechanisms in children’s social adjustment. Psychological Bulletin, 115(1), 74–101. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.115.1.74.

Lansford, J.E., Malone, P.S., Dodge, K.A., Crozier, J.C., Pettit, G.S., & Bates, J.E. (2006). A 12-year prospective study of patterns of social information processing problems and externalizing behaviors. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 34, 715-724.

Selbst, M.C. and Gordon, S.B. (2012). POWER-Solving: Stepping stones to solving life’s everyday social problems. Somerset, NJ: Behavior Therapy Associates.

ABOUT STEVEN B. GORDON, PHD, ABPP

Steven B. Gordon, PhD, ABPP is the Founder and Executive Director of Behavior Therapy Associates, P.A. He is a clinical psychologist and is licensed in New Jersey. Dr. Gordon is also Board Certified in Cognitive and Behavioral Psychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology and is a Diplomate in Behavior Therapy from the American Board of Behavioral Psychology. Dr. Gordon has co-authored three books, published numerous articles, presented papers at local and national conferences, and served on editorial boards of professional journals. Most recently, Dr. Gordon and Dr. Selbst have co-authored the new social-emotional skills program POWER-Solving: Stepping Stones to Solving Life’s Everyday Social Problems. Dr. Gordon’s professional interests range from providing assessment and treatment for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, AD/HD and other disruptive behavior disorders associated with childhood and adolescence. He has co-founded and is the Executive Director of HI-STEP® Summer Program, which is an intensive five-week day program for children to improve their social skills and problem solving ability. In addition, Dr. Gordon has had extensive experience providing clinical services not only for children diagnosed with phobias, stress, selective mutism, obsessive compulsive disorders and depression, but also with adults coping with anxiety,depression and relationship difficulties. Dr. Gordon is a member of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies, and the New Jersey Psychological Association.

ABOUT MICHAEL C. SELBST, PHD, BCBA-D

Michael C. Selbst, PhD, BCBA-D is Director of Behavior Therapy Associates, P.A. He is a Licensed Psychologist and a Certified School Psychologist in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He is also a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the Doctoral level. Dr. Selbst has co-founded and is the Executive Director of HI-STEP® Summer Program, which is an intensive five-week day program for children to improve their social skills and problem solving ability, and the Director of the Weekend to Improve Social Effectiveness (W.I.S.E.). He has extensive experience working with pre-school aged children through adults, including individuals who have social skills deficits, emotional and behavioral difficulties, learning disabilities, gifted, and children with developmental delays, including those with Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Dr. Selbst consults to numerous public and private schools, assisting parents, teachers, and mental health professionals, and presents workshops on all topics highlighted above, as well as Parenting Strategies, Depression, and Suicide Prevention. Dr. Selbst and Dr. Gordon have co-authored the new social-emotional skills program POWER-Solving: Stepping Stones to Solving Life’s Everyday Social Problems. Dr. Selbst is a member of the following professional organizations: American Psychological Association; National Association of School Psychologists; Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies; Association for Behavior Analysis International; Association for Contextual Behavioral Science; New Jersey Psychological Association; and New Jersey Association of School Psychologists.

The Social Problem-Solving Model: Promoting Greater Social Independence – Part I

This week, in continuing the spirit of Autism Awareness, we’re excited to feature a two-part expert article on a social problem-solving intervention method by Steven Gordon, PhD, ABPP, and Michael Selbst, PhD, BCBA-D, who are the founder and directors of Behavior Therapy Associates, P.A.  Here in Part I, Drs. Gordon and Selbst have addressed the outcomes of different types of social skills training and what an effective social skills teaching program encompasses in order to promote independence in learners.

The Social Problem-Solving Model: Promoting Greater Independence – Part I
Steven B. Gordon, PhD, ABPP & Michael C. Selbst, PhD, BCBA-D

Students with social skills deficits often have difficulty in many of the following areas: sharing, handling frustration, controlling their temper, ending arguments, responding to bullying and teasing, making friends, and complying with requests.

These impairments require direct instruction to address the deficits. In addition, these impairments are exacerbated for those with a mental health diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, and Nonverbal Learning Disorder.

A large body of research indicates that social skills training produces short and long term positive outcomes. The improvement in social skills has many benefits: an increase in students’ positive behavior, reduction in negative behavior, improvements in academic performance, more positive attitudes toward school, and increase preparation for success in adulthood.

Children Hanging Together

Social skills learning programs have yielded significant benefits in many studies conducted to date. “The ultimate goal of a social skills program is to teach the interpersonal, problem-solving, and conflict resolution skills that students need relative to interpersonal, problem-solving, and conflict resolution interactions. In a generic sense, then, students with good social skills are unlikely to engage in inappropriate internalizing or externalizing behaviors” (Knoff, 2014). In one important meta-analysis by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), it was concluded that social and emotional programs are effective in both school and after-school settings, for students with and without behavioral and emotional problems, for racially and ethnically diverse students from urban, rural, and suburban settings across the K-12 grade range.

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) interventions improve students’ social-emotional skills, attitudes about self and others, connection to school, and increase positive social behavior while reducing conduct problems and emotional distress. CASEL’s review also indicates that school-based programs are most effectively conducted by school staff (e.g., teachers, student support staff) and suggest that they can be effectively incorporated into routine educational practice. In light of CASEL’s positive findings, it has recommend that federal, state, and local policies and practices encourage the broad implementation of well-designed, evidence-based social and emotional programs in schools. Continue reading

Pick of the Week: Opposites & Adjectives Sale

Help students develop expressive language skills through the use of opposites and adjectives with these flashcards and puzzle sets! This week, you can also take 15% off any of these four great sets. Just apply promo code OPPADJ at check-out!

Adjectives: Opposites present both the concepts of adjectives and opposites, making this a truly useful and versatile set. These are the right adjectives to teach the young learner new language concepts. The set of 46 photo cards include: front, back, young, old, big, little, cold, hot, clean, dirty, few, many, near, far, tall, short, and more!


Opposites Language Cards
teach 10 different pairs of common opposites, including together/apart, dirty/clean, open/closed, thick/thin, and more. Each opposite is presented in a clear, non-distracting way in two different contexts to aid in generalization skills and help children understand different situations.

Opposites Fun-to-Know® Puzzle contains 48 puzzle pieces to create 24 different pairs of opposites and help teach cognitive skills and build word recognition. Each puzzle is self-checking.

 

DRC_321_Adjectives_ColorCards_Box 

 
Adjectives ColorCards
contain beautifully clear large-format cards that illustrate a variety of adjectives in a side-by-side comparison. he concepts and vocabulary relate to common experiences and have been selected for use with a wide range of students with varying language abilities. There are multiple examples of each Adjective for generalization exercises. Each of the 48 cards measure 5 ¾” x 8 ¼”.

View the entire sale here.

*Offer expires on April 5, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. Not compatible with any other promotions or on past purchases. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code OPPADJ at check-out! Call (800) 853-1057 with any questions.

Pick of the Week: Teaching Language & Conversation Workbooks

Teach language and conversation skills to students with autism with these great books! This week, take 15% off any or all 3 of these great teacher guides and student workbooks. Use promo code LANGUAGE at check-out to redeem your savings.

DRB_380_Teaching_Kids_of_All_Ages_to_Ask_QuestionsTeaching Kids of All Ages to Ask Questions is a great source for teaching students at different levels how to ask and answer questions. The book also covers:

  • Simple past, present and future tense
  • Regular and irregular verbs
  • Progressive present, past, and future tense verbs
  • Perfect present, past, and future tense verbs
  • Perfect progressive present, past and future tense verbs
  • Negative questions
  • Conditional statements

This workbook is great for a comprehensive coverage of Wh-Questions within various contexts.

DRB_385_Teaching_Conversation_to_Children_with_AutismTeaching Conversation to Children with Autism Scripts and Script Fading provides step-by-step instructions to parents and teachers on how to teach conversation skills. Because many individuals with autism have difficulty initiating and maintaining conversation, this book describes how scripts and script fading can provide a predictable and meaningful structure for these individuals to engage in conversation. The goal is for these scripts to then progress to spontaneous language. This book covers: scripts for readers and non-readers; conversation activities; activity schedules; prompts and rewards; and observing, evaluating and measuring results.

 

DRB_045_Teach_Me_LanguageTeach Me Language is a social language manual for children with autism, Asperger’s syndrome, and related developmental disorders. Based on professional speech pathology methods, this book targets social language, general knowledge, grammar and syntax, functional knowledge, written expression and language-based academic concepts. Teach Me Language is designed to take the child from one and two word utterances to more complex sentences that lay the foundation for social conversation.

Don’t forget to use our promotional code LANGUAGE at check-out this week to save 15%* on any or all of these books for teaching language & conversation!

*Offer is valid through March 22, 2016 at 11:59pm EST. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code LANGUAGE at check-out! Call (800) 853-1057 with any inquiries.

Pick of the Week: Clue Cards – 5 games in one to teach socioemotional skills

Clue Cards teaches students how to interpret social situations, read facial expressions, and understand metaphorical forms of speech. This week, you can save 15%* on Clue Cards – just enter promo code CLUECARDS when you check out online! Play 5 different games to teach inferencing, faces and feelings, body language, exploring Wh- questions, and a variety of common idioms!

Therapists, teachers and parents can uses the cards and games included in this set to help students perceive and understand the details of social presentation. Because the cards are flexible and adaptable, they can be used with both younger and older children, with mild or sever socioemotional difficulties. There are instructions for 5 different games along with 100 reward chips, targeted for players ages 6–16.

  1. Get a Clue: Players find “clues” in social situations and make inferences based on those clues (15 Social Situation Cards).
  2. Faces and Feelings: Link expressions with associated emotions (20 Feeling Cards, 20 Faces Cards).
  3. Body Language: Matching photos and captions, children explore body language for clues about thoughts and feelings (24 Photo Cards, 24 Caption Cards).
  4. The 5 W’s: Analyze 10 social scenes by asking “who-what-where-when-why” questions (10 Social Scene Cards, 1 Spinner).
  5. In Other Words: Learn the idioms and proverbs that often pop up in social conversation (30 Idiom Cards, 30 Idiom Definition Cards, 26 Proverb Cards, 26 Proverb Definition Cards).

*Offer lasts through March 1, 2016 at 11:59 PM EST. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code CLUECARDS at check-out! Not valid on past purchases.

Pick of the Week: Wh- Question ConversaCards

Encourage discussion and critical thinking in students with these decks of Wh- Question ConversaCards. This week, you can also save 15%* on your order of any or all of these sets. Just use promo code WHCARDS when you check out online or over the phone!

Covering 6 different topics – Where Does It Go, What Happened, What Comes Next, What Do You Do With It, What Do You Need, and What Do You Like – each set comes with 54 cards and a Resource Guide containing helpful strategies and suggestions for prompts. Learning to respond to “what” and “where” questions is the foundation of conversation and expressive language. These flashcards can be used to teach sequencing, storytelling and logical thinking for a wide range of ability levels!

Don’t forget to use our promo code WHCARDS to take 15% off* when you order your set(s) of Wh- Question ConversaCards this week!

*Offer is valid through February 16, 2016. Be sure there are no spaces or dashes in your code WHCARDS at check-out! Call our customer service team at (800) 853-1057 with inquiries.