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Language Therapy

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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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Articulation Therapy, Language Therapy, Little Friends, Toy Reviews and Uses

How to Create and Use Surprise Eggs for an Instant and Engaging Speech Therapy Activity

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One of the first toys I put together as a clinical fellow (a copy of something my incredible coworker owns) was a set of surprise eggs. I am not exaggerating when I say the day these little eggs came into my life, my job got easier and my world got happier. I’m talking critter clinic and ball popper levels of GOODNESS here, people. It is instant-therapy and so engaging!

I’m going to walk you through why they are so wonderful to have on-hand, tips on putting together your own set, and how I like to use them. I promise to be brief- we’ve all got stuff to do.

 

WHY THEY ARE AWESOME

Each egg is its own mini activity with a clear beginning and end- which I LOVE. It is enormously helpful for keeping little people’s attention because you can move through it quickly. It also helps reduce behaviors because they soon learn the expectation that the toy is here, and then it’s gone, then another one comes, and that’s just how it is. Even the simple visual of each egg going into an “all done bin” one at a time can be helpful.

Surprise eggs also lend themselves SO EASILY to creating verbal routines (my favorites are below in the “How I Use Them” section). They can also be easily adapted as an activity for infants and preschoolers alike. I have even had some older kids show interest! Depending on what you fill them with, you can use these for just about anyone. Personally, I never change out the objects inside because it would just take too much time, but that would absolutely be an option to adapt them to different goals and age groups.

 

HOW TO MAKE YOUR OWN

Word to the wise- invest in quality eggs. I purchased my first set from Target around Easter time and they have held up beautifully! When I needed more, I tried to find some cheap ones on Amazon- half of them were cracked and the other half didn’t close properly. So be sure to read reviews closely and remember this is an investment- spend the big bucks. If I ever find some reliable ones online I will link them!

You can fill the eggs with  just about anything! My favorites are wind-up toys (like these!) and other interactive toys you can find at places like Michaels and Party City. Things that light up, bounce, spin, and squish are perfect for providing plenty of language opportunities!

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I also store them in a clear tub that latches so it easy for children to request what color they would like next without making it to easy for it to be a free-for-all. I store most of my toys this way.

 

HOW I USE THEM IN THERAPY

  • Verbal Routines: knock knock knock open, shake shake shake open, telling the toys hi/bye as you take them out/in, and (of course) READY SET GO!!
  • Wh Questions – what is it, what is it doing, what color do you want
  • SO MANY VERBS AND ADJECTIVES AND NOUNS!
  • -Gross Motor Imitation- knocking on the egg, shaking the egg, waving hi/bye to the toys
  • -Functional Play- do we know how to make the tiny car drive? or the little dinosaur eat your hair? (weird, but fun)
  • Joint Attention- optimal opportunities for eye contact and social referencing!
  • Bonus OT Tip- a 2 year old child should be able to open these eggs- if not, a referral is warranted!

 

I am so excited for you to try this activity! I truly have used it almost every day since I made my first set during my CFY years ago. If you make your own- tag me in your picture so I can see! I love hearing from you!

Have FUN, Speechy People!

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Please note: As an Amazon Influencer, I may earn from qualifying purchases. I will only ever link items that I believe whole-heartedly in.
For Parents, Language Therapy, Little Friends

Building Confidence in Your Communicator

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photo credit: Ben White via unsplash.com

Sometimes we get a little human who is painfully shy or perhaps just flat out unwilling to speak.

I am not talking about a language disorder. I am talking about those kids who have something to say, but are not saying it for whatever reason. I particularly run into this with my kids who have severely impacted intelligibility. I cannot count the number of times I’ve gotten a shoulder shrug or an “I don’t know” from bright kiddos simply because they know their words may not be understood. They have learned from countless attempts to communicate that people will not understand and that it is painful to try.

Not only does this break my heart, but it actually impedes our progress.

If my little friend is too shy to say anything without me modeling it first, we cannot scaffold. We stay at the same level of cueing and nothing changes. Furthermore, I cannot get a full picture of their errors when I have never heard them at the conversation level… or even sentence level.

It’s a “chicken or the egg” situation.

These kids are likely not as talkative because their errors make them self-conscious. Yet, spending months working on skills in imitation is bound to make our progress much slower than needed.

The speech errors are the cause- we can treat that with good ol’ therapy and drill work. However, the symptoms… we need a new plan. We need our kids to TALK in speech. 

Makes sense, right? Here are a few ideas:

 

Be SILLY: Your best bet to win over a shy kid is to be a big ol’ goofball. Make them laugh! Being loud and crazy may not be the way to go… but have a silly game on hand to get the giggles going. Ham it up so you can set up a fun, relaxing therapy environment. Even if they’re not laughing yet, even if they’re just watching out of the corner of their eye and smirking, keep on doing you and being as fun as you can muster.

For kids who will tolerate it, and this is probably after a few weeks of therapy, we practice shouting our answers. I model a loud response (which usually gets me at least a giggle) and they do their best to match. This little game typically gets them to a normal speaking volume at least!

 

Enlist Help: Have the caregiver email or jot down a few notes about what the child did over the weekend. You can ask guiding questions that will allow your kid to answer and be understood. Imagine a child being able to share pieces of their life with you for the first time? Not only is it a confidence-booster and a rapport-builder, but it will allow for a few opportunities to clear up errors along the way.

Provide Comfort: You know how at a party, you may feel awkward without a purse to clutch or plate-o-snacks to hold on to? Give these kids something to do with their hands. Let them pick out a soft, squishy friend to hold during your treatment session. You can even encourage them to bring a “lovey” from home.

Pace the Conversation: There is a chance that you may do most of the talking for a while with these kids but try not to overwhelm the conversation. Give them plenty of time to respond but after 10 seconds of them staring at you, they probably just aren’t ready.

Give a Cheat Sheet: Whether or not a kid is a reader, you might provide a script for them to learn the basics of a conversation. “Hi, how are you, good, how are you.” This is a great go-to that they can not only use to greet you, but they can use it in their communities. Another option is visual conversation cards. Even if they’re not ready to say a whole sentences, maybe they could fill-in-the-blank. Perhaps you can even provide them visual choices and they can point to their answer. It’s okay to use a safety crutch for now.

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Keep it Positive: Do everything you can to make your time together fun and enjoyable. Lower your expectations to a level where they can be successful – whether that’s nodding their head, giving a high five, or answering a yes/no question. When they participate, make sure they know it’s a good thing. For different kids that may mean a big smile, and for some it may mean a big ol’ “WOOHOO!”. We are speech therapists and therefore we are chameleons. Shape your responses based on the needs and personality of this particular child.

 

We need to be patient with our friends… but also provide them with the support to get things movin’.

Give them the benefit of the doubt for as long as possible. This type of quietness is usually not a negative behavior. Often, it’s a legitimate response to anxiety. You may also consider the possibility of selective mutism, depending on the severity.

Just imagine yourself at your most shy and awkward stage of life. Remember that feeling of loneliness at the idea of not being understood by anyone… or being afraid to connect with other people. I am a firm believer that if we had a world filled with confident people,  it would be a better, safer, happier place. With your help, our friends are learning how to become effective communicators. Help them build their confidence along the way so we can speed up the process and have some FUN.

 

Have fun growing confident little people!
Lindsey