Pick of the Week: Parachute Play

DRG_350_Parachute_PlayAs Fall creeps up and school looms near, we thought this week’s pick should embody the carefree and playful aspects of summer. Within a few short days, our regular school-day routines will start up again and the memories of sand squishing between our toes and summer BBQs will fade. So celebrate these final days with one of the most simple yet fun games around – the Parachute! This week, save 15% on our Parachute Play by entering the Promo Code BLOGPP13 at checkout. It measures 6 feet with 6 handles so you can play one-on-one or involve the whole family.

And if you’re feeling like you should be focusing on school readiness and not play, well the Parachute can help there too! Here’s a post by our brilliant friend Sam Blanco on her Teachthrough Blog about all of the educational uses of the simple yet wondrous parachute.

Age level: Preschool, Early Elementary
Description: I still remember how excited I would be when the teacher brought out a parachute during elementary school. Even now, I can’t exactly identify what it is about a parachute that draws children in, but I have found that it almost always works even for my most difficult to motivate students.

Skills & Modifications: There are many things you can do with a parachute. I’ve listed a few below, but if you have used it in other ways, please leave a comment explaining the activity!

  • 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 isa  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.)

Pros: There is a wide variety of activities that you can do with a parachute. As mentioned before, my experience has been that it is a great tool for motivating students who are difficult to engage. The parachute is also fantastic as a reinforcer or to use during a break. It is fun for students to play hide-and-seek with it, lie on the floor and have you lift the parachute high into the air then bring it down on top of them, or spin it in a circle. One final pro is that, depending on the size of the parachute, you can do these activities indoors. I have a parachute that is six feet in diameter, which is perfect for indoor activities with preschool and early elementary learners.

Cons: You have to think carefully about the environment in which you will be using the parachute and choose the appropriate size. Many parachute activities also require more than two people, so if you are working 1:1 with students, you should prepare ahead of time to ensure that a sibling or parent will be available to participate in the activity with you.

Remember, enter the promo code BLOGPP13 at checkout to save 15% on our Parachute Play this week only.

***This expires September 3, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces in the promo code at check out!

Pick of the Week: “I See I Learn” Books

Early childhood is a period of vital learning through sensory experiences. Visual learning and comprehension are expressed long before children learn to read and utter a wide range of vocabulary. The I See I Learn series by visual learning specialist Stuart J. Murphy applies this natural capacity of young children with engaging and stimulating stories that are reinforced with visual strategies that help young learners prepare for school and other situations.

I See I Learn BooksThe I See I Learn series introduces a neighborhood of gentle, caring individuals, who respect and nurture each other. The stories are infused with experiences in which our fictional friends Freda, Percy, Emma, Carlos, Camille, and Ajay learn basic life lessons by effecting positive results.


This week only, SAVE 15% on the I See I Learn books, by entering in the promo code BLOGISIL3 at checkout.

The books are divided into the comprehensive domains of Social and Emotional Skills. Each title addresses a particular issue relevant to the experiences of young learners. In Percy Gets Upset, readers learn how to deal with frustration. Good Job, Ajay! helps children build confidence. Emma’s Friendwich explores the fun and challenges of making friends. In Camille’s Team, the gang must work together to share in the fun and learn cooperation. Percy Listens Up gently helps children understand that not listening often leads to missing out on great fun. And Freda Stops a Bully explores how it feels to be teased and bullied and what strategies kids can use to stop it.

Informative illustrations paired with diagrams that illustrate various issues encountered in children’s daily lives help make these lessons easier for young learners to remember.

Layout 1

Additional activities and questions in the back of the books also help educators and caregivers further explore each issue discussed in the stories with their children.

Experts in the field of educational development for young children agree that learning tools need to have the ability to apply children’s own viewpoints in solving the conflicts that they may face on a daily basis. Stuart J. Murphy does this exactly with a positive-child approach in his series. Each layout – each word – reflects Murphy’s ability to see scenarios and dilemmas “as a child” and to present them in natural, kid-friendly language with solutions that make sense from their perspectives. The dynamic illustrations in each story are engaging and help generate excitement in young learners when you decide to introduce a new title.

BLOGISIL3 Promo Code

This week only, SAVE 15% on any one of our selections from the I See I Learn series by Stuart J. Murphy, by entering in the promo code BLOGISIL3 at checkout.*




*Offer expires on May 14, 2013 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces after the Promo Code when you enter it at checkout.

Wait, What Are We Talking About?

I typically work with very young learners in Early Intervention but there was a time I was working with older children, which necessitated work on conversation skills and topic maintenance. With the start of a new academic year and changes to my caseload I am currently finding myself with students who again need some assistance in this area.  Children with autism spectrum disorders often struggle in conversations because of limited or restricted interests, attending issues, difficulty determining what is relevant or salient to the topic and might also struggle with the rapid transitions necessary to shift between speaker and listener.  This change in my caseload has meant that I’ve found myself digging into old files and unearthing some ancient DIY efforts of mine that I had used in the past.  What I came across that I wanted to share was a visual support that I had used in small groups to facilitate a variety of skills.  It’s something I called Chit Chat and it helped to cue the students in shifting from speaker to listener while maintaining a balance in the conversation with turn taking and reciprocity as well as staying on topic.

The idea was that we would all sit down for a “chat” and initially I would go first in order to model how the board was used rather than providing explicit instruction until the group could use the board on their own and I could fade myself out of the conversation.  The first speaker would choose a token corresponding to a topic of interest, make a statement relevant to the topic chosen and then pass the token to a friend.  The token would provide a prompt for the speaker to maintain the chosen topic as well as cue the rest of the group to visually reference the child whose turn it is to be speaker.  Depending on the level of the group I would individualize the number of conversational exchanges on one topic required before bridging to a new topic. The group I was working with at the time was able to talk about more general topics but this could be individualized to more specific topics depending on the group of students you are working with.

I’m excited embarking upon a new academic year with all it’s unique challenges and successes and am happy to dust off Chit Chat and give it another whirl this year with all new students.  I would be curious to hear from other educators and therapists what tools they’ve created that they find themselves going back to year after year.  You might be surprised what you find at the bottom of your file cabinet!

Also, check out this great link I stumbled across from POPARD Provincial Outreach Program for Autism and Related Disorders in British Columbia, Canada.


Pick of the Week: S’Match! Memory Game

S’Match! presents a fun “spin” on the classic memory game. The S’Match Spinner tells players whether they’re looking for matches according to color, number or category. The game allows for readers and pre-readers to learn and play together as the colorful cards feature both the pictures and words. You can useS’Matchfor developing language, memory and concentration skills while children learn about sorting and categorizing.

This week only, save 15% on S’Match! by entering the Promo Code BLOGSM5at checkout.

*Offer expires on July 31, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces after the Promo Code when you enter it at checkout.

Pick of the Week: What Are They Thinking? Flashcards & CD

Inferring meaning from images and text can be a real challenge for many students. What Are They Thinking? flashcards and worksheets help students develop empathy as they learn to recognize and understand emotions. This is a wonderful resource for initiating conversation and storytelling. Using this set, you can help students explore the relationship between thoughts and feelings as well as teach them to recognize how behavior affects others. The set comes with 30 large photo cards, an instruction booklet and a CD that contains reproducible worksheets for each student.

This week only, save 15% on the What Are They Thinking? flashcards by entering the Promo Code BLOGWATT7 at checkout.

*Offer expires on July 24, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces after the Promo Code when you enter it at checkout.

Pick of the Week: The Language of Perspective Taking

Work on social language and help your students feel more comfortable in social situations as they learn to see things from someone else’s point of view with The Language of Perspective Taking. An important milestone in a child’s development is seeing things from the perspective of someone else. The ability to understand another’s point of view contributes to the development of pragmatic language and communication and is a cornerstone of literacy as well.  
This interactive workbook has pages for both students to work on and guides for teachers that explore emotions, empathy, and how feelings are affected by various factors and experiences.

This week only, save 15% on The Language of Perspective Taking by entering the promo code BLOGLPA at checkout.

*Offer expires on March 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces after the Promo Code when you enter it at checkout.

Pick of the Week: Talk Blocks & Boards

We’ve loved these Talk Boards and Talk Blocks since we first laid eyes on them for the myriad possibilities they offer to fully customize a lesson or activity for each student. They’re designed to fit perfectly with the Basic Vocabulary, Alphabet, Kindergarten, and First Grade Vocabulary Photo Card Sets.

The Talk Boards  are double-sided with write-on/wipe-off surfaces and come in a set of 3. You can record a 10-second message for each one enabling you to get creative in endless, fun ways!



The Talk Blocks come in a set of 5, each a unique color, and you can record 30-seconds for each one to adapt activity instructions, assess or reinforce skills.

This week only, save 15% on all Talk Boards and Blocks as well as the 4 sets of Vocabulary Cards – Alphabet, Basic, Kindergarten and First Grade – by entering the Promo Code BLOGTBT2 at checkout.


*Offer expires on February 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces after the Promo Code when you enter it at checkout.


Pick of the Week: Getting Our Hands Ready Preschool Prep Kit

This kit prepares children for school by providing active, goal-directed play. Getting Our Hands Ready contains 10 playful games to establish good habits for learning handwriting and promoting proper grasp of pencils. Each item is specifically developed to improve fine motor coordination and the guidebook contains a series of multisensory activities to build the small muscles in hands and fingers. The kit comes with dough stampers, mini crayons, Mr. Crunch and other exclusive pieces.

This week, save 15% on the Getting Our Hands Ready Kit. We’re even going to extend the discount to the other two kits in the series: Snip, Glue & Grow Kit as well as the double kit Following Directions & ABC’s and Simple Shapes Kit. To redeem your savings on any of these three kits, enter the Promo Code BLOGHWGK at checkout.










*Offer expires on February 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces after the Promo Code when you enter it at checkout.

Pick of the Week: Sign to Talk Nouns Flashcards

Sign to Talk: Nouns presents 150 photographic flashcards designed to shape verbal language specifically for individuals with autism and other developmental challenges. These cards are ideal for their crisp, clear images and their Kaufman Speech Praxis word shell breakdowns which help to shape articulation skills on the back of each card. The set offers myriad teaching opportunities as each card also depicts a photo of a person demonstrating the sign in ASL and a description of the hand shapes for each target item. Use this deck for home or school, to teach sign manding, or for the child-appropriate images that aid in any language acquisition program.

This week only, save 15% on the Sign to Talk: Nouns by entering the Promo Code BLOGSTN at checkout.

*Offer expires on February 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST. Not compatible with any other offer. Be sure there are no spaces after the Promo Code when you enter it at checkout.

Teaching Interactions – Strategies for Teaching Students with ASD by Autism Partnership

Teaching Interactions

 Teaching Interactions (TI’s) are another instructional format that can be invaluable in teaching children skills.  This instructional technique was developed at the University of Kansas as part of the Teaching Family Model for delinquent youth.  TI’s have several benefits as it allows for structured training of more complex, often sophisticated skills in a highly natural, interpersonal, expanded conversational format.  TI’s are designed to teach complex skills (e.g., social skills, problem solving, etc.).  They utilize shaping and reinforcement to teach a skill and rely on a task analysis format.  The teaching style is typically conversational and flexible in nature, providing the student multiple opportunities to participate in the teaching process.  Although flexible, the technique approaches teaching skills systematically, and requires planning for generalization.  Following are the 6 steps of a TI and both guidelines and considerations when utilizing this teaching technique.


  • Initiation & Labeling
  • Rationale
  • Demonstration
  • Practice
  • Feedback
  • Consequences

This is part of a guest series by Autism Partnership founders Ron Leaf, John McEachin and Mitchell Taubmann. Established in 1994, Autism Partnership is one of the nation’s premier agencies dedicated to providing intensive behavior intervention for children with autism and their families. They offer a comprehensive program and a variety of proven services, including in-home, in-classroom and one-on-one, as well as lectures and workshops. All programs are handled by expert staff and tailored to each individual child, family and caregiver, with the goal of helping that child achieve their best life. For more information, visit www.autismpartnership.com.