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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Apps on Sale for April Autism Awareness

Just a quick post - and I try to stay away from too many posts that sell my resources, BUT
Question It - the app for teaching kids with autism how to answer Wh-questions is on sale April 2-30 for 12.99 (normally 24.99)
This is an amazing app (if I do say so) that really works to teach kids which kind of word answers what ind of question.
SoundSwaps is for kids with any type of auditory processing difficulty, auditory conceptualization problems, dyslexia, etc.  It provides lots of great practice for moving sounds in words to create new words they hear.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Autism Awareness Day - and Month

     April 2 is Autism Awareness Day coming up again.  And the whole month is dedicated to autism awareness - and acceptance.  Interestingly enough, I've seen autism in the news twice in two days.  
     Right here in San Diego, researchers at USCD have made some groundbreaking discoveries about the genetics of autism.  And elsewhere in the country, the statistics are on the rise.  Now, this may also partially be an artifact of our better and better detection and diagnostic systems - at least I sure hope so.
     I do staff training in a variety of venues, including for staff in group homes working with kids with autism.  So, I thought I'd share a little of what I talk about.

     First of all, autism is currently considered a very complex neurologically based developmental disability that usually appears within the first 3 years. (When I first started working with kids with autism it was still called Childhood Schizophrenia).  
     It most strongly impacts the individual's ability to communicate and interact with others.  About 40% of individuals with autism remain at least functionally nonverbal.  That's a huge rate.  And finally, the research on AAC is dovetailing with the research on autism, so that we have more answers and interventions that work for these kids.
     Autism is a spectrum disorder.  It affects each individual differently, at differing degrees of intensity in each of the areas it can impact.  The most defining symptom is the interference with language skills.  There is a lack of or delay in spoken language.  Receptive language is also usually impacted.  
     Repetitive patterns of language are seen; both in echolalia (repetition of what has been heard) and perseveration (repetition of what they have said over and over, even when it is not the appropriate thing to say in the context).  
     Lack of language skills impacts social interactions which may - or may not - be of interest to the child anyway.  

     Many children with autism also display fascination with objects, stereotypical action patterns (like hand flapping), and lack of symbolic or imaginative play.  
     Those children with autism who are verbal often talk "at" people instead of "with" them.  
     Many children with autism have a hard time reading peoples' faces, understanding emotional looks, have issues with those pragmatic language skills that tell us how to act and respond and behave socially and allow us to have conversations.
     The only scientifically proven intervention strategies (those that are evidence based, have replicable findings, and are accepted) are those related within the applied behavior analysis umbrella. Now, many people still think of massed trials of discrete trial, at a table, over and over, with little interaction or context when they hear "a.b.a."  
     However, this is far from all there is to a.b.a.  And, in fact, many a.b.a. practitioners have vastly widened their interventions to be more contextual, more functional and realistic, and - for some - even more communication based.  Modified incidental teaching strategies, contextual time-delay procedures, and a whole host of proprietary interventions are to be found.
     Persons with autism thrive on routines.  They are often resistive to change, and need plenty of warning and preparation.  Use of visual cues can help with this.  As a matter of fact, use of visual cues is extremely important for individuals with autism.  
     Imagine, if you have difficulty processing language and reading body language and understanding facial expressions, how confusing and anxiety producing it is when people talk at you, try to give you explanations, and then just move along as if you understand.  Visual cues are extremely important in understanding language, expectations, environmental set-ups, and more.
     And, speaking of anxiety, it is amazing to me that it took us so many years to recognize the high degree of anxiety among these folks.
     Now, this post has gone on long enough, so I am going to wrap it up.  And I'm going to add a visual contingency map idea for you to use.  Simply substitute the icons of your choice - or photos of the person and what they want.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Shared Reading with AAC Users

I touched on this topic a little bit when discussing use of storybook apps.  I wanted to come back to it again (and I'm sure I will yet again).  
Shared book reading is all about increasing interaction and engagement.  It is all about increasing language.  How better to get kids talking about what they know, what they have experienced, and expanding their knowledge to new things?
SO, what should you do?  

1. Read books to/with the child/student.  Read many different types of text, and find books that interest the student(s).  Read the same book multiple times. Elicit responses to the story by providing:

  • binary choices
  • cloze procedures
  • open-ended constituent (Wh) questions
  • open-ended comprehension questions

2. Scaffold (support) language use by using:

  • text/print references “Look at the ____”
  • provide a cloze procedure “The boy is ___”
  • use expansion “Yes, the boy is ____”
  • give binary choice “Is the boy sitting or swinging?”
  • model on the aac system
  • give open-ended questions “What is the boy doing?”

3. Use leveled readers that have a simple story plot and use high frequency words.

Before reading: select and display the target words for the week, describe what the story is about, find the target vocabulary word(s) on the aac system and use it/them in a sentence.
During reading check for comprehension and provide opportunities for retrieving the target word(s) through questions with binary choice, cloze sentences, open questions, listed above.

After reading, review the story and, using the illustrations or a story map, retell the story.  Model target words in a variety of activities.
Happy reading!