Basic Principles and Practices for Teaching Children With Autism New Skills

Teaching new skills to children with autism can be very difficult. It is important to first understand the fundamentals of behavior.

Behavior is an important part of teaching because in order to learn a new skill, a child must understand what response is desired and when. A child learns when a response is desired by experiencing a stimulus (i.e. item/request/instruction) and discrimination (Sd- discriminative stimulus).  A child simultaneously learns there is a desired response and discriminates that the response is only desired in the presence of the Sd. For example, if you are teaching a child to say “book” in the presence of a book, the Sd would be the book itself and the desired response would be saying “book.” That child will learn to say “book” only when that book is present. Later on, that child may begin saying “book” in the presence of new books, a pattern called generalization.

So, why is behavior important in teaching a new skill? It is important because a child’s response IS a behavior!

 Descriptions Of Behaviors:

Reflexive Behavior is our bodies’ natural reaction to environmental stimuli (e.g. blinking when someone blows in your eyes, or jerking your leg when someone hits your knee cap). These behaviors are called reflexes and occur without being learned. Read more

Swim Your Way To A Stronger Body

Summer is quickly approaching, and swimming pools can be used for much more than tanning and floating! Get those muscles and joints working with these simple games that you can play with common pool toys.

The following activities target strength, endurance, body awareness, trunk control, breath control and motor planning. As always, make sure safety is your first priority:

1. Noodle Races: sit on foam noodles, using your arms to pull yourself across the length of the pool .

**Try a variety of movements with your arms such as front crawls, breast strokes, and doggy paddling to incorporate different reaching and pulling methods. You can also sit on a tube or raft rather than a noodle to play this game!

2. Noodle Volleyball/Basketball: sit on foam noodles, passing a beach ball back and forth or aiming for a hoop.

**Try to keep the ball in the air without hitting the water for as long as possible. This is a great challenge that incorporates hand-eye coordination. Read more

Using iPad and iPhone Apps to Promote Speech and Language Development

As we all know, technology has become a part of our daily lives.  iPad and iPhone application developers have createdChild with iPad both motivating and meaningful applications that target many of the areas within the speech and language discipline.  The apps are multisensory; they tap into the senses of sight, sound and touch. The high resolution graphics used in the apps are visually appealing to all children. While there are TONS of applications out there, here are a few apps that can be used to improve and/or maintain vocabulary, articulation, pragmatic and language skills.  

iPhone and iPad Apps To Help Develop Vocabulary:

App Name

Appropriate Age

Description Benefits of the App
Clean Up: Category Sorting (free)

 Any

Game

Helps children make associations and strengthen categories and sorting skills

Preschool memory match (free)

3-5

3 different levels (easy, medium, hard) and 5 categories to choose from including: Transportation, Musical Instruments, Animals/Bugs, Food, and Objects

Good for very basic vocabulary. Just a basic memory game.

Mini reward follows the end of each game.

ABA Flashcards (free)

2+

Flash cards are specifically created to stimulate learning and provide tools and strategies for creative, effective language building.

Benefits to both visual and auditory learners. There is classical music with visual reinforcement built in to the app. Great tool for promoting the mastery of new words, building vocabulary and conveying new concepts.

Animal Fun (free)

 Any

Animal learning program. Children learn about animals by seeing and hearing the sounds an animal makes. Help builds vocabulary

 

iPhone and iPad Apps To Help Develop Articulation: Read more

Helping Your Child With Articulation Difficulties

What To Do When You Can’t Understand Your Child’s Speech:

As children develop speech and language, it’s critical to reinforce their communicative attempts. This presents a challenge for children who often have unintelligible speech utterances. How do we respond to our child when we can’t understand what they’re saying? Here are a few strategies I use during moments when I can’t understand a child’s speech:

4 Tips For Understanding Your Child’s Speech:

• Work with what you can understand, and request for more information. “Wow! I can tell you are really excited. You and daddy went where?”

• Gently request that your child repeat his utterance. You might say, “Uh oh, I didn’t quite hear you. Can you tell me again?” Try to read nonverbal cues from your child, such as gestures, emotion and eye-gaze.

• If possible, use cues from the environment. “Hmm, can you show me what you’re thinking about?”

• As much as possible, take advantage of moments to use visual support. For example, if you’re talking about a recent family vacation, print out a few pictures to show while you talk. Refer to the pictures to clarify specific people, places and ideas.

Should You Correct Your Child’s Speech Errors?

Children with articulation errors often feel self-conscious about talking, and I find that constantly correcting their errors often increases their reluctance to talk. Here a few tips for helping children with articulation errors:

• First and foremost, consult with your child’s speech therapist about how to practice speech at home. This will determine when, how and how often you should practice with your child. Your therapist will likely have specific suggestions for when and how to correct your child’s errors. Read more

9 Tips For Practicing Speech With Your Child

Constant practice is very important when children are acquiring new speech sounds. Having your child progress in their speech skills requires practice, just as practicing piano or sports skills is necessary for improvement. Many parents do a great job in helping their child to practice speech sounds, but it’s important to switch up the routine so that the child doesn’t become resistant or bored.

Here Are 9 Fun & Easy Tips To Practice With And Encourage Speech In Your Child:

  1. Make practice a routine. To get into the habit of consistent practice, set a certain time each day (e.g. during breakfast, before bedtime) to go over speech.
  2. On the Go? Play I-spy in the car, at a restaurant, or at the park to find different items with the targeted speech sound.
  3. Play family board games. Include speech practice before each turn of the game. If other children are playing, have them practice a different skill before their turn (e.g. read a page of a book or do three math problems).
  4. Think of silly sentences. Try to come up with silly sentences using the speech sound multiple times in the sentence (e.g. Cindy went swimming in ice-skates).
  5. Sing songs. Find fun songs that have the targeted sound, and sing with your child.
  6. Use a sound while discussing the day. Once the child can successfully say his sound in words and sentences, help him practice using it in conversation by setting aside time each day to have him tell you a story while discussing his speech sound. Dropping a bean or a marble into a cup each time you hear his sound helps the child to visually see how many times he is correctly using it. Read more

Why Does My Child Need a Diagnosis?

-“I don’t want to label my child.”

-“Teachers are biased against diagnosed children.”

-“My son doesn’t act like most kids with _________ (particular diagnosis).”

 

These are statements that I hear on a routine basis, and they are all valid points. Any diagnosis that a child or adolescent may have carries a certain stigma to it. This is human nature. As a neuropsychologist, one of my biggest tasks is to develop the most appropriate and effective diagnosis for any child. My goal with writing this blog is to help identify the importance of an appropriate diagnosis.

How A Diagnosis Can Help Your Child:

First and foremost, an appropriate diagnosis will help explain and answer the “why” questions. Why does my child continue to struggle to read? Why is it impossible for my child to sit still? Why is it that my child cannot make friends? Once we identify the “whys,” we are on our way to solving the problems.  An appropriate diagnosis is intended to help develop the most effective means of intervention. If I diagnosis a child with Dyslexia, I know that traditional teaching of reading and phonics wouldn’t do much good. I would know instead to utilize an empirical approach consistent with the disorder at hand. Read more

Transition Trouble | How Family Routines and Rituals Can Help

If your child experiences difficulty with transitions, changes or any activity requiring flexibility, you may be wondering what’s making it so hard.

Your child may be hypersensitive to changes in routines or unexpected events for a variety of reasons. Some possibilities include poor organization orplanning skills, sensory issues, developmental delays, inadequate coping mechanisms, maladjustment or an anxiety disorder. If your child also exhibits any of the following symptoms, it could be anxiety that is causing all the commotion:

Symptoms of Transition Caused Anxiety:

• Negative, rigid, perfectionistic or unrealistic thinking patterns

• Irritability, tantrums, anger or aggression

• Constant worry about what might happen

• Avoiding new or unfamiliar people, places or activities

• Excessive clinginess or withdrawal from activities and socialinteractions

• Interruption in sleeping or eating habits

• Psychosomatic complaints such as stomach aches, headaches and fatigue

All children and adults experience anxiety at a natural level, and it’s considered normal until it negatively impacts a child’s functioning at school, home or with friends. If your child is overly anxious for what is expected at their age, it is likely interfering with family life. Adding routine and structure into your home, wherever the opportunity lies, will surely help an anxious child be more successful across his environments. Read more

Life Skills For Children and Teens With Autism

When a child with autism reaches the age of nine or ten, it is important to start emphasizing life skills within their therapy and classroom curriculum. Life skills have been defined by the World Health Organization as “abilities for adaptive and positive behavior that enable individuals to deal effectively with the demands and challenges of everyday life.” Within the last ten years many special education programs have been veering away from life skills prioritizing an academic standardized curriculum more aligned to the needs of a general education population. While these skills are important when preparing for college or a future job position, it is just as important to know how to perform life skills.

Below are some ideas of ways to practice life skills whether you are a teacher, therapist, or parent with a child with autism:

Take public transportation– Whether in the classroom or on a field trip, taking public transportation provides many opportunities to build life skills. Have the child look at a map to decide what bus or train route is best. Have them count out money to buy a ticket and ring the bell when they have reached their stop.

Make Lunch– Teach your child to make a simple lunch food such as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. You will need to model this in the beginning, and depending on the child’s fine motor abilities, you might have to provide assistance when spreading the condiments on the bread. But the best thing about making food is that when it is a food the child likes, the end result of eating it is naturally reinforcing.

Grooming routine– Brushing teeth, brushing hair, taking a shower and putting on deodorant are all life skills that become important to master during adolescence and the early teen years. Break each task into steps, and if necessary, provide pictures of each step to assist the child in remembering “what comes next.”

Complete a daily chore– Start to assign your child a daily chore and have them complete that same chore until they have mastered it. It is best to start with a simple two- to three-step chore like carrying dirty clothes to the laundry room (e.g. pick clothes up from off the floor, carry them to the laundry room, drop them in the laundry basket). Whichever chore you choose, you will need to model each step in the beginning and provide prompts to assist with each step.

Joining a social group or life skills group is a great way to have a professional assess which skills your child would thrive at best!

Hitting, Biting, Pushing, and Shoving | How to Handle your Child’s Aggressive Behavior

As a parent, it can be both frustrating and upsetting when dealing with a child who is exhibiting aggressive behaviors. Parents may feel that they cannot enroll their child in certain activities and/or groups because they fear that their child will be aggressive towards the other children. Also, some parents might even feel worried or embarrassed about receiving phone calls from daycare or school, reporting the aggressive behaviors that their child displayed.

Step 1: Addressing Your Child’s Behavior:

The first step to addressing your child’s aggressive behaviors is figuring out why your child is acting like this. A child can become aggressive for several different reasons.

Some children may exhibit aggressive behaviors because of:

  • Insufficient speech development
  • Lack of routine Read more

Developmental Skills While Playing With Dolls

Playing is a child’s primary job, and a beneficial one at that.  Through play, children develop fine and gross motor skills, practice language and develop new vocabulary, and begin to understand new learning concepts. 

Below is a sample of all that is involved and developing when your child plays with dolls.

 Cognition

  •      Develops imaginative play skills as your child cares for her doll.
  •     Teaches different emotions and relationships as child role plays. Read more