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Autism, For Parents, Language Therapy, Little Friends, Older Friends

How to Teach Children Their Phone Number

I talk a lot about how to teach safety information to children. It is particularly important for our children on the Autism spectrum, who have Down syndrome, or are otherwise minimally verbal or intelligible. I always focus on targeting these students’ names, but their phone number is equally as important. Here are some tips I like to use:

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1. Mickey Mouse Theme Song

This classic tune is perfect to help memorize a phone number to a little jig. Just replace each letter of “Micky Mouse” with a number. This has been enormously helpful for my kids during our speech therapy sessions.

2. Errorless Learning

Don’t tell my college psych professor… but I’m pretty sure there is a name for the memorization strategy I’m about to describe… but I can’t remember it (oh, the irony). In any case, let’s just call it errorless learning.

I like to write the phone number down and have my student read it multiple times. When it seems they have the hang of it, I cover the last digit and have them say the whole number again. If they get it right, we practice that several more times before I then cover the last two digits. If they struggle, I show them the entire phone number again and we practice some more.

We keep practicing the phone number while covering one more “end” digit at a time until it is memorized! It may happen in one sitting or it may take months. Be sure to go at the child’s pace.

3. Multimodal Approach

I want my kids to have options for success in a stressful safety situation. This is why we practice not only saying their phone number, but also writing and dialing it. By the way, getting to call mom or dad during a therapy session is a HUGE motivator!

4. Repeat It And Then Repeat It Again

We know that repetition is key to muscle memory and creating automatic pathways for speech. Practice the phone number so many times it becomes as automatic as counting to 10. Don’t be afraid to spend some time on it every session as well! Even if you think they’ve got it down, revisit it every once in a while. We want this information at the tip of their tongue whenever they need it.


That’s all for now! I’ve found these techniques really helpful when teaching my students their phone numbers. It’s also been easy to help families implement at home for extra practice. If you are working on safety information in your classroom or therapy sessions, you might also be interested in these adapted personal information cards.


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Best of luck to you, friends! Let’s keep our kids safe at prepared.


Autism, Language Therapy, Little Friends

Using First Person Video Modeling as a Tool to Teach Children on the Autism Spectrum How to Play with Toys

We know that children on the Autism spectrum have deficits in theory of mind, perspective taking, generalization, and play skills. Research is coming out that indicates to us not only is video modeling helpful for teaching these children social skills and play skills, but that first person point of views are particularly important.


To this end, I have created a series on YouTube to help in this area. You can find the playlist HERE.


At the time of this blog post, videos include modeling with a ring stacker, Mr. Potato Headjack-in-the-box, and farm animal pop-blocs. You can click the name of any of these toys to get a closer look if you think your kid might enjoy them. Below are some direct links to the videos:

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If you are interested in making your own video models, there are a few key factors to consider:

  • restricted display (fewer visual distractions)
  • repetitive presentation
  • first person point of view


You can click here, here, and here for some more information on the evidence base for video modeling as a teaching tool.


Remember that play is a JOB for our children. They may seem disinterested in toys or uninterested in how to play with them functionally. It is our job as therapists, parents, and educators to teach them.

Baby steps.


Maybe on day one they touch the toy for a second. Day two they watch you play with it. Day three they tolerate hand-over-hand to stack one block or push one button. Day four they stack one block in imitation.
This is an example of the incremental changes we are looking for. BABY. STEPS. Don’t give up after the first minutes, days, weeks, or even months.

It’s time well spent.

Not only does playing with toys develop fine motor skills, it is the foundation for language. Play skills are VITAL to social interaction, interaction with one’s environment, and the ability to act out in play that which may occur in the real world. I recently saw a quote from Dr. Karyn Purvis that reads,

“Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain- unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10-20 repetitions.”

This quote may not be directly applicable to our kids with ASD but it does speak to the power and importance of play.


If you know a child who struggles with appropriate play skills, please also consider seeking additional referrals-

Occupational therapists are invaluable to the team. Fine motor abilities play an enormous part of what a child is able or willing to play with. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… we’re all in this together!

You may find milestones for play skills from the CDC’s website. The CDC is a wealth of information!

Best of luck to you! There’s a reason the Autism symbol is a puzzle. There is no “one way” to help these kids. I hope these videos can be useful tools but they are not a guarantee- nothing is! Just don’t give up until you find your answers!



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