Children with learning differences, learning disabilities and developmental disabilities such as autism spectrum disorders often have difficulty coordinating information between their senses, and integrating information presented through one mode into output through another mode. For example, they may have difficulty listening to a teacher's voice, processing the information, and then having to write a paragraph based on the auditory information. Extra processing time is often needed in the moment. Other strategies can help you effectively teach students with visual motor difficulties:
There are lots of great ideas in terms of using computers within the classroom. Sure, we are bound by funding and other challenges, but keep some of the following in mind when considering how to use yours.
Too few computers for too many students? You could time-share pairs of students, have them all work together, or have some on computers while others do related curriculum activities. Also, remember that not all students have the same ability level with computers, or even ability to access computers at home, so their usage and support needs in the classroom may differ.
Do you plan on using e-communication, prepackaged learning resources, or use the two together? Computer-mediated communication will enable you to contact students and receive communications from them. Chat rooms and access to the Internet can bring a wider input from different sources to support your work. Electronic bulletin boards or forums allow students to post and read messages, and allow file sharing between staff members and students. Teachers can now set up classroom pages for free through www.weebly.com, where they can post messages and information such as photos or worksheets as well as enrichment activities and information, create forums with administrative privileges, and communicate with other staff and students.
Worksheets or information summaries can be scanned in and printed. Information can be manually entered into such programs as Kidspiration to organise materials visually, or create an assortment of webs or flow charts than can be printed, or emailed to home for use there.
Kurzweil software allows students to copy and paste a passage in and it will read it aloud for the student. With the abundance of e-books now available, this is becoming easier as scanning isn't always necessary.
Consider the information accessible via the computer. Is it relevant, accurate, or appropriate? You need to provide "useful" sources (material you have already checked), information about how to use search engines or CD/DVDs which includes the material you have chosen. Each is a valuable approach, and while you might begin with one or the other, you should eventually come to use all three (and others).
Can you use a computer to assess student work? You may have the students submit homework via email, develop chat groups where chats can be monitored, or even have students in the classroom simply save their work to their own desktop file folder. What a wonderful opportunity to teach organizational skills in conjunction with computer skills. Teach students how to create subfolders within their folder to organize materials - good copies, drafts, subject folders, etc. Work could be posted if desired and peer reviewed. There are also an abundance of online polls that could be used to submit information.
Initially, motivation is high when the students are introduced to the computer. The novelty of computers will attract them, and most students will already be familiar with them, having played some computer games. The spell check is a great support, especially to those having problems with spelling, and keyboards erase handwriting challenges, having great self esteem benefits. How are you using computers in your classroom? Let's share our ideas!
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Last year, I purchased the Discovery Toys starter kit, because I had used so many of their toys in the past, and they are fantastic for therapy and teaching. I didn’t want to sell the products; I just wanted $420 in toys for $140 and access to the consultant discount . Some were Christmas gifts, some were used in therapy and teaching, and some are in my own children’s playroom. Here are 10 of my favourite toys, and how I use them – not all are Discovery Toys – it’s my all-around favourite toys list.
1. Progressive Puzzles – these are great because they are step by step. There are simple-picture puzzles ranging from 4 to 9 pieces. I take it one step further and photocopy the puzzle onto cardstock, and place this inside the puzzle frame at first. You can then fade out the picture so the child next completes the puzzle without it (technically, he’s matching when that visual is included, not doing a puzzle), then later complete the puzzle without the frame at all. I use these as part of the ABLLS Visual Performance Domain.
2. Castle Marbleworks for early learners, and Marbleworks for older children. Great for problem solving, Marbleworks allows me to connect and expand communication skills while building the track (building on prepositions, turn taking, sharing, colours, shapes, following instructions, asking for help, and so many others). Plus, it allows me to use the marbles as reinforcers throughout the activity, and provides visual sensory reinforcement. While engaged in such a fun activity, it’s easy to slip in targets and maintain reinforcement throughout.
3. Wiz Kids – great for working on feature/function/class. It’s a set of cards – half have a letter on them with a point value (like in scrabble), and the other has a category. You pull one of each, and see who can come up with something from the category starting with that letter. Ignore the letters to make it simpler if you choose, so simply coming up with something that is part of that category is the goal. Great travel game as it’s just a small card box, and scorekeeping is as simple as holding the cards with your points on them.
4. Don’t Break the Ice – Not a DT toy, this one is available at your local toy or department store, and works as a great motivator. It’s fun and very easy to play (you take turns hammering plastic ice blocks out of a frame until the skating bear figure falls in). I begin the game setup, leaving maybe 10 blocks out. I hold onto the last 10 blocks, giving one to the child I’m working with for each response he provides, as a reinforcer (essentially a token system). When he has all the blocks, we can play the game together.
5. Rainfall Rattle – simply put, the most popular sensory bin toy I’ve ever had. Small beads rain down through colourful disks, making the sounds of rain, and a visually stimulating show.
6. Roll & Play – simple game where you roll the big stuffed die, pick up a card with a colour match to what you rolled, and act out what is says on the card. Great for building motor imitation skills, vocabulary, and following instructions.
7. Giant Pegboard – great for working on visual matching, imitation, sorting by shape and / or colour, patterning, and horizontal / vertical block design. Again, I love to build in reinforcement by ending with an activity to build the tallest tower we can, and crashing it over.
8. Tangiball – another popular sensory bin toy, the Tangiball smells great (small smells like Vanilla, and big smells like strawberry). They squeak when squeezed gently, and have a nubby texture that’s great for tactile and proprioceptive input.
9. Flip Flop Faces – one of the most fun ways to teach emotions I’ve ever seen. Cartoon facial expressions are printed on the outside of plastic bowl-shaped domes. Domes are placed open side up (face side down), and when a beanbag (labelled with the corresponding emotion word) is thrown into it, it flips itself over and you can see the face.
10. Play Doh (store bought or homemade) – well, what list is complete without Play Doh? Rolled along your child’s hands and forearms for deep pressure input, used with teaching imitation, written in to develop letter awareness, shaped to develop shape awareness, scented with Kool Aid to provide olfactory sensory input, used as a stand for the abovementioned Wiz Kids cards – the possibilities are endless. Do you have a favourite recipe? Mine is posted in a previous blog post at www.fullspectrumlearning.ca.
Get some of your Christmas shopping done and shipped direct to you without having to leave home. Products above as well as many many more can be purchased online at www.discoverytoyslink.com/caseyburgess. Proceeds go to support local programs for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
If you are interested in a great kit of toys with or without deciding to sell or in a business opportunity with great product discounts, tax writeoffs, and a fun way to make extra income (or even start a new career), please visit www.discoverytoyslink.com/caseyburgess. Contact me for more information.
WOW * WAY TO GO * SUPER * THAT’S INCREDIBLE! * OUTSTANDING * EXCELLENT * GREAT * GOOD * NEAT * WELL DONE * REMARKABLE * I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT * I'M PROUD OF YOU * FANTASTIC * WHAT A SUPERSTAR * NICE WORK * LOOKING GOOD * YOU'RE ON TOP OF IT * BEAUTIFUL * NOW YOU'RE FLYING * YOU'RE CATCHING ON * NOW YOU'VE GOT IT * YOU'RE INCREDIBLE * BRAVO * YOU'RE FANTASTIC * HURRAY FOR YOU * YOU'RE ON TARGET * YOU'RE ON YOUR WAY * YOUR HARD WORK PAID OFF * SMART * GOOD JOB * THAT'S INCREDIBLE*YOU DID IT * DYNAMITE*WHAT A TALENT * YOU'RE UNIQUE * NOTHING CAN STOP YOU NOW * GOOD FOR YOU * I LIKE THAT * YOU'RE A WINNER * REMARKABLE JOB * BEAUTIFUL WORK * SPECTACULAR*YOU DID IT! * YOU'RE SPECTACULAR*YOU GOT IT JUST RIGHT * WONDERFUL TRYING * GREAT DISCOVERY * YOU'VE DISCOVERED THE SECRET * YOU FIGURED IT OUT * FANTASTIC JOB * HURRAY * BINGO * MAGNIFICENT * MARVELOUS * TERRIFIC * WHOOHOO! * PHENOMENAL * SENSATIONAL * SUPER WORK * CREATIVE JOB * SUPER JOB * FANTASTIC JOB * EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE*NICELY DONE*HIGH FIVE * YOU SHOWED GREAT RESPONSIBILITY * THAT’S SO EXCITING * YOU LEARNED IT RIGHT * WHAT AN IMAGINATION * WHAT A GOOD LISTENER * YOU ARE SO MUCH FUN * GOOD CHOICE * YOU TRIED HARD*THAT WAS A GREAT IMPROVEMENT * BEAUTIFUL SHARING * OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE * YOU'RE A GOOD FRIEND*GREAT TRYING * YOU'RE IMPORTANT HERE* I LOVE HOW YOU DID THAT * YOU LEARNED SOMETHING NEW * YOU HAVE A NEW SKILL * I RESPECT HOW YOU DID THAT*YES! * THAT'S CORRECT * WHAT A JOY*THAT’S EXACTLY IT * WONDERFUL*PERFECTLY DONE * AWESOME * A+ JOB*YAY! * YOU MADE MY DAY * THAT'S REALLY COOL*YOU WORKED SO HARD AND IT PAID OFF*THAT’S IT EXACTLY*YES, KEEP IT UP*FABULOUS
For a printable copy for your home or classroom, please click here
Creating Your Own Visual Supports
First of all, check out available web sites to see if the visual you want is already made. My favourites:
If not, here we go...
Open Word (or a comparable word processor, but I’m familiar with Word). Decide what you want the visual to say. Write the text in, leaving room for pictures to be added in.
Don’t worry about borders or anything just yet – that’s easier at the very end. Right now, you just want a simple layout.
Adding Pictures and Graphics
Make sure the cursor is at the bottom – it will make adding pictures easier. Wherever the cursor is is where the picture will end up, and sometimes it temporarily shifts the words around. They will self-correct when you do the next few steps either way, but if you ever panic, just click edit/undo. It will undo what just happened. You can back up a few steps this way by clicking edit/undo a few times.
Adding Graphics and Pictures Built In To Word
Insert Shapes: You can click on “insert” for a variety of options – you can add shapes, call-outs (what someone is saying or thinking), line arrows, block arrows....even arrows that you can add text into! Just click insert / shapes, and select the one you want. When it shows up, you can drag the dots around the border to make it bigger, smaller, thinner, or wider. You can select it, then click “text wrapping” and choose “in front of text” to make it easier to move around where you want it by simply dragging it. You can click the yellow dot on some to make part of the shape bigger (such as the pointy part of the arrow). You can click the green dot to rotate the shape around.
Insert a text box: You can insert a “text box” or a piece of text that you can shift around as if it were in a box. Click insert / text box and choose the kind of text box you want from the pop-up. When it shows up in your document, just type into it. You can right click the text box and play around with the style – removing the border, filling it with a colour, and so on.
Inserting clip art: You can click insert / clip art and a window will pop up on the right. Enter a search term, and a selection of items will pop up. When you click one, it will insert into your document. You can adjust the size with the corner dots, rotate it with the green dot, or even flip it over by dragging the dot on one side across to the other side.
Smart Art: Smart Art is included with newer versions of windows, allowing you to use pre-made graphs, flow charts, and so on. Play around with them – they work just like layers of pictures all together.
If anything is too tricky, leave it out, and draw it in by hand after. It isn’t worth getting too anxious over.
Adding In Your Own Photos
To add in your own photos from your computer, click insert / picture and navigate to the picture you want to enter. When it pops into your document, click the picture to select it, then click “text wrapping”, and select “in front of text”. Then you can move it around to where you want it. Use the border dots to resize.
Adding Internet Photos
Google Images: To add in pictures from the internet, you can use Google Images . Open Google, click on “images” in the top left, and enter the item you are looking for. Be cautious with young children around – you never know what will pop up. Browse through the pages until you find the picture you like; you can see the full sized version by clicking on it, then clicking “see full sized image”. From there, you can right-click the picture and click “copy”. Go back to your Word document and click “paste.” It will show up where your cursor was with a frame of black squares around it. To make it easier to move it around where you want it, click it, and at the top, click on word wrapping, then ‘in front of text’. The border squares are no longer solid, and you can just drag the picture where you want it, as well as resize by dragging the dots in the corners.
You can do the same with pictures from web sites. Right click, then click “copy”. With both google images and web site images, though, be aware of copyright issues. If you are using pictures for your own personal use, it is usually ok, but if you are sharing the images, please request permission from the owner.
Flickr Creative Commons: On Flickr.com, you can click on “Creative Commons”. This is a collection of images that the artists have provided permission for the public to use. Restrictions for each are indicated. It’s a good idea to use this route if you plan to share your visuals with others or to distribute them otherwise. You will need to click the image, download it, then you can enter it into a document like you do your own photos.
Play around with Word – I like to add a border to my visuals to make them look nicer and easier to cut out. You can do this by inserting a shape – a square, perhaps. Draw the shape around the edge of your visual, then right click it and select “send to back” and/or “send behind text”.
Add your copyright – it’s your work! Click ctrl/alt/c for the copyright symbol, and add your name and the year you created it!
Remember that there are lots of sources of help out there. If you run into trouble, email me – I would be glad to help you out!
© Casey Burgess, 2010
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Getting ready to start a new school year causes anxiety in most children; especially so for children on the ASD spectrum. As a parent, what should you be doing to help prepare your child for the highest level of success through this tricky transition?
Try the following tips to ease anxiety:
1. Visit the school beforehand with your child, especially his own classroom. If this isn't possible, see if you can visit alone and take some pictures, or ask the teacher to email you some pictures. A visual preparation of what to expect can make it easier to visualize and prepare mentally. Visit with the teacher if you can, and do a bit of a walkaround of the classroom. This is an ideal time to talk about your child's optimal learning environment with the teacher.
2. Try to obtain some of the curriculum and/or lessons that will be taught this year. If the teacher doesn't have this planned out yet, you can visit your State or Province's Department/Ministry of Education website; curriculum can be either downloaded or ordered. In Ontario, you can download the curriculum (by subject or by grade) at http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/curriculum/elementary/grades.html, or click on "Publications" to have them send the books to you at no cost. You will need to order each subject. Having the curriculum at hand allows you to pre-teach, making school a little more predictable.
3. Drive the bus route a few times to practise. Many school boards send around a bus route list. Drive the whole route, including having your child get into the car where he/she will be catching the bus. Borrow a few neighbourhood kids to make it a little more realistic. If your child is younger, he/she may carry a picture of the school bus along this ride to generalise a little easier.
4. Write a social story about what to expect, acknowledging feelings of anxiety, and providing some illustrated examples for reducing anxiety throughout the day (deep breathing, square breathing, Tony Attwood's toolbox, etc). Visit www.fullspectrumlearning.ca/resources.html for some examples. Try to include real photos of the school in the story, and script out the major transitions throughout the day - arrival, getting to the classroom, going to the washroom, lunch, recess, and return hom. Read the story daily, and talk about what might happen. If there are specific anxieties, write social stories for those as well.
5. See if you can arrange for an earlier or later start time on the first few days. Sometimes, the commotion of the first few days, especially at arrival time, can be overwhelming. At the very least, try to arrange a quiet spot for your child to wait as soon as he gets there to avoid some of the chaos.
What have you done to ease school transition and create success? Please click on our forums above to share your ideas, or post a comment to this blog!
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It is with regret that we salute the passing or Dr. Ivar Lovaas. His work has changed our lives, and affected so many children, and his footprint on the field of autism remains his legacy.
The Association for Behaviour Analysis comments:
At 6 PM on August the 2nd, 2010, Professor Emeritus O. Ivar Løvaas, Ph.D., passed away quietly after a long battle with illness. He was surrounded by his closest family. There will be an official memorial service at the University of California, Los Angeles later this month." Dr. Doreen Granpeesheh, Executive Director, Center for Autism and Related Disorders, Inc.
Unfortunately, Løvaas had had Alzheimer's for the last few years. He was recovering from surgery for a broken hip and got an infection that caused his death.
Few have had Løvaas' impact on the field of behavior analysis, demonstrating the power of behavior analysis to so significantly improve the quality of life of so many people. Little in behavior analysis, or in psychology, has had the real impact of the behavioral interventions he started and that have been replicated and expanded upon by so many other behavior analysts. H e showed that if you're willing to do what it takes, up to 40 hours per week of intensive training for at least a couple years, you can help young children with autism greatly improve their lives. And this has almost as powerful an effect on the lives of the children's families. And also on the lives of the tutors and behavior analysts who have the privilege of using behavior analysis to help those children and their families. The field of behavior analysis and the Association for Behavior Analysis International owe a great debt to Ivar Løvaas, his students, and the many researchers and practitioners who have followed his path and who have branched off on related paths of their own.
Association for Behavior Analysis International
Ivar Lovaas was a psychology professor at the University of California at Los Angeles. Dr. Lovaas began working with older children with autism in the same decade that Skinner wrote his now famous, Science and Human Behavior text in 1953. Lovaas began to apply the experimental behaviour analysis developed by Skinner to people with autism. Unfortunately, Lovaas achieved limited success at first. However, he refocused his efforts on children under the age of 5, placed the implementation of treatment in the child’s own home and increased the intensity (a measurement of the amount of “therapy time”) to about 40 hours weekly. In one of Lovaas’ studies, 47% of the children in the study (9 children) made remarkable progress to the point of becoming “recovered”, while a further 42% (8 children) made significant improvements. Even still, however, 11% made little to no gains. Lovaas wrote a user friendly manual, Teaching Developmentally Disabled Children: The Me Book in 1981. In 2002, Lovaas wrote, Teaching Individuals With Developmental Delays: Basic Intervention Techniques . Lovaas has published more than 70 publications throughout his career.
Guest Post by the wonderful and full-of-imagination Renata Bowers; Special Gifts = An Extraordinary Story
Special Gifts = An Extraordinary Story
You are the parent of an extraordinary child. Of course, you already know that.However, words like “special” mean something different to you than they do to some. There are days when it would seem that you are the only one who understands the difference between “special” and extraordinary.
How do you rise above the communication challenges and convey to your child that they were created to live a wonderful life?
I wrote my first children’s book, Frieda B. Herself (www.friedab.com) as a springboard to a discussion with children (and adults) - to inspire them to dream their dreams big and get in touch with that which makes them unique and wonderful.
I go to schools and speak with children often. It’s what I believe I was created to do. Here is a bit of what I say. I hope that it is helpful to you as you encourage your child to seek out and live out the things that bring them joy.
You – yes, you – have a story inside you. A really special story that only you can tell. And you’re meant to tell it your whole life long.
But. You have to believe that you have a story in order to tell it.
Now, in order to find your story and tell it, you must dream your dreams big and believe they can be. .
Here’s how it works.
First of all, you must know: You have special gifts tucked away in your heart and your mind and your arms and your legs and your eyes and maybe even your feet. Gifts that make you who you are. Like a runner, a hugger, a reader, a joke-teller, an explorer, a baker, a builder, a painter. And your combination of gifts is unlike anyone else’s. That special combination is the key to your story.
So how do you begin to figure out and tell your story? Simple. Listen to – and follow – and dream about – what you love. With all your heart. Dream big, about who you can be, what you can do, that will make the world a better, brighter place.
And don’t – don’t -- worry about what other kids love that you don’t. They’re them. You’re you. And the best part of all is that your gifts and their gifts combined can tell an even more wonderful, bigger, better story, together.
So don’t be who you aren’t. Be who you are. Love what you’re meant to love, do what you’re meant to do.
Do this, and you, my dear and wonderful friend, will be well on your way to blessing the world with the beautiful story you carry inside you.
Oh, it's true.
I believe in you.
Dream Your Dreams Big
and Believe They Can Be,
Renata is the author of “Frieda B. Herself.” Her website is www.friedab.com..
Phase 2 Results of the Autism Genome Project have recently been Published in the journal, Nature. The Autism Genome Project (AGP) (www.autismgenome.org) is an international autism genetics research consortium co-funded by Autism Speaks, the Medical Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Health Research Board (Ireland), Genome Canada, the Hilibrand Foundation and Autistica.
They have been looking at genotyping data collected from 1,000 individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and 1,300 without ASD, and have reported that individuals with autism tend to carry more submicroscopic insertions and deletions called copy number variants (CNV) in their genome than controls, some of which appeared to be inherited, where others are new (were not found in parents)
New genes were identified, some of which are related to connection in the brain (synapses) and others to the numbers and use of cell structures in the brain, and connections between cells; areas which could possibly affect future treatment approaches. Each variant may only account for a small fraction of the cases, but together, they are starting to account for a greater percentage of individuals in the autism community. The overlap between autism susceptibility genes and genes previously implicated in intellectual disabilities further supports the hypothesis that at least some genetic risk factors are shared by different psychiatric developmental disabilities. Finally, identification of these biological pathways points to new avenues of scientific investigation, as well as potential targets for the development of new treatments.
Andy Shih, Ph.D., Autism Speaks vice president for scientific affairs, explains that “Piece by piece, we are discovering genetic mutations that can cause autism. These findings will provide answers for families about what contributed to their autism. Furthermore, as we have learned from examples involving other genetic risk factors of autism (e.g., Fragile X, Rett, TSC), these genetic findings help us understand the underlying biology of autism, which can lead to the development of novel treatments.”
For a copy of the direct article, please visit the following link: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/pdf/nature09146.pdf
The AGP consists of 120 scientists from more than 60 institutions representing 11 countries who formed a first-of-its-kind autism genetics consortium. The AGP began in 2002 when researchers from around the world decided to come together and share their samples, data, and expertise to facilitate the identification of autism susceptibility genes. This continuing collaboration and its unique scientific assets (e.g., large sample set and multidisciplinary expertise) created scientific opportunities that otherwise would not exist. The AGP is well positioned to build on these extraordinary assets as the field of autism genetics further investigates rare variants, requiring larger sample sets to identify more CNV. Additional support for Phase 2 of the AGP was provided by the National Institutes of Health. The first phase of the AGP, the assembly of the largest-ever autism DNA collection and whole genome linkage scan, was funded by Autism Speaks and the National Institutes of Health and completed in 2007.
Casey Burgess, 2010
Casey Burgess has a B.Sc.in Psychology, an M.A. in Education (Curriculum and Instruction), and a Ph.D. in progress in Education (Cognition and Learning). She has 20 years experience with direct service, curriculum development, workshop facilitation, and supervisory experience supporting children who have Autism Spectrum Disorders, and their families. She currently frames her work using a developmental, relationship-based, self-regulation lens.