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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Find a Way Out during Fire Prevention Week - Helping Special Needs Kids Learn Safety Skills

Fire Prevention Week was originally established to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.  This huge fire killed more than 250 people and left 100,000 homeless. The fire began on October 8, and continued into October 9, 1871.
According to popular legend, the fire started after Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked over a lamp, setting her barn on fire, from where it spread to the whole city.  Fortunately, historians have begun to take the blame off of poor old Mrs. O’Leary and her cows - who were actually asleep in the barn at the time.

 Fire drills are crucial to the safety of children in schools - and homes.  Knowing the routine of what to do when the alarm rings can avoid injuries and even save lives.
But fire drills are disruptive experiences, loud and confusing, for many children with special needs who do not always understand what is happening, who hate changes in routines and schedules, and who cringe and cover their ears at any loud noise.

Visual cues are an important of learning and remembering any task or schedule for kids with autism - and many other special needs.  Have visual cues for fire drills posted in the classroom. Have each child have his/her own copy in his/her desk.  Allow them to carry these visual cues throughout the fire drill, to help remind them - without verbal nagging or unnecessary verbalizing.
Take this set of visual cues for use in your classroom or home.

How do you keep your kids safe during emergency drills?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Let’s All Communicate - Teaching Core Words to AAC Users

September is almost over.  It’s been a fun “free communication board” month and it seems like lots of you have enjoyed the boards.  I have two more posts left for this month.  I’m planning a Halloween communication board for next week. 

This week I feel like I’m cheating a little bit.  Rather than a topic board, I am posting a simple core vocabulary board that can be used any time, any where, in any activity.

Teaching kids who are learning to use aac how to use core words is very powerful.  So much can be said with only those first 25 early words.  When I do workshops, I sometimes (when there is time) challenge attendees to come up with as many 2 and 3 core word combinations as they can.  The lists can be amazing.

Core words are re-useable words, maximizing communication with multiple meaning words.  Using core words on communication boards gives access to the most-often used words, so users can generate genuine messages.  It also minimizes the amount of “real estate” needed for a robust vocabulary.  Core words are composed primarily of pronouns, lots of verbs, determiners, prepositions,conjunctions, adjectives and adverbs.

Those early core words* include I, no, yes, my, the, want, it, is, that, a, go, mine, you, what, on, in, here, more, out, off, some, help, all done, finished.

Combining these words gives access to powerful functions: 
what that it off
want that it on
some that I go
that mine here I go
it mine here it is
yes, mine on here
off that want more
that out is here
want help is on
it in is mine
it no in off mine

The list goes on and on. (But this post can’t).

Think about how many ways you can use the word “Go.”  Get in the wheelchair and go somewhere, go on the potty, get in the car and go, make it go by turning it on, go start the activity, go away and leave me along, I go someplace.

A focus on core vocabulary means faster and more functional communication in all environments.
AND it means more reasons to communicate than just wants and needs.
How many ways can you get your kids communicating with core words?

* Benajee, DiCarlo, Striklin, 2003

Keep communicating!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Question It Featured

Here's a great email I just received: 
We just launched Common Sense Media’s updated Power UP Special Needs and Learning Difficulties Guide for kids -- and it includes QuestionIt! 

Being included in our Special Needs and Learning Difficulties Guide is quite an achievement. Our team spent several months surveying research, conducting interviews, and field testing products with experts, field leaders, teachers, and parents. These products were handpicked as fun, well-designed apps, games, and websites that can help give kids who struggle with traditional learning an added boost.

The guide is available for free on our site at Starting next week, it will be heavily promoted via social media channels and onsite to our 2.5-million+ monthly unique visitors in our newSpecial Needs and Learning Difficulties Topic Center. We will also feature the guide in our weekly email newsletter to our user base of more than 600,000 parents, kids, and teachers.

I am so excited!  Check it out here.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Don’t Talk with Your Mouth Full - Not a Problem for AAC Users - with a FREE Snack-Time Communication Board

Almost everyone uses snack time for communication.  Keeping kids motivated by food is not often a problem.  And for as much as we’ve tried to get away from M&Ms and other edible reinforcers, we do get a chance to get communicating going at snack times. 

Snack time is not just for choosing and requesting foods.  Kids often need help with opening containers or pushing straws into juice containers.  They sometimes need to tell us they don’t like something (more appropriately than throwing it, that is), or that they want more of something, or something different.  They might need to tell us that something fell on the floor.  Or that little Johnny took something (over the years “little Johnny” has gotten a really bad rep).

A student might want to tell you this is his favorite or that this tastes yummy - or yucky.  He might want to save some for later and need you to close it up.
And, of course, there is always the need to go wash one’s hands or go to the bathroom. I actually ran out of room for all of the verbs and adjectives!

As you can see, there is far more to snack time that making a request.  Let’s branch out!

Just download this image for your free communication board for snack time.  What else can your kids say while they’re eating?

Look in the last 2 posts for more free communication boards; one for the library and one for A.P.E./motor activities.  And, if you need more aac resources, check out my TPT store.  Here are some more core based communication boards:

Keep communicating!
And tell me, how do you get kids to talk about eating?

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Shall We Exercise? A FREE Communication Board for Physical Activities and APE

You may have noticed that in many preschool programs the speech-language pathologist teams up with the O.T. and/or P.T. for therapy time. There is a good reason for this. Studies have shown a definite advantage to this collaboration.

Many children - especially those on the Autism spectrum - have shown significant improvement in acquiring language skills when involved in physical activity. Even simple actions; such as clapping, tapping the table or floor, or waving arms, can increase the acquisition of speech and language skills. A lot of language is learned during activities.
Research shows that more than 90% of early verbs are learned while engaged in an action.

Spatial concepts are best learned when interacting with 3-D contexts. Descriptive concepts are learned while engaged with the objects you are describing. Holding a pillow while learning soft, holding a rock while learning hard, looking at a zebra while learning stripes - all provide a context in which children are more likely to learn those concepts.

Most of the students I work with have Adapted Physical Education, and usually also go to the Motor Lab. So, I have tried to use core words - lots of verbs - as well as the names of some equipment in this motor activity communication board.

You can check out the library communication board in my last post.  Also, I have some for sale in my TPT store: here and here

And check out my YouTube video about setting up activity based communication boards here.

How are you moving your kids to more language?

Monday, September 1, 2014

September 6 is National Read a Book Day - Take a FREE Communication Board to the Library

I have decided to devote September to creating some free picture communication boards for various school activities.  So, to celebrate Read a Book Day - which is September 6th - here is a  communication board for use at library time.

Note that this is an activity-based communication board that uses core vocabulary, as well as context-based fringe words.  This board is consistent with all of my activity-based communication boards. (You can find some at my TPT store here and here.)  You will find pronouns and verbs predominate, along with adjectives. There are some Wh-questions.  And, yes, there are a few nouns that are appropriate for the situation.

Remember that self-selected reading is important for all students; especially those with communication disorders who may not get the same world-experiences as others.  
Talk to your librarian about story time in the library to see if you can have some activities ready that will go along with the book (s)he reads.  And remember to try to make all read aloud times shared reading times with interactions and questions.

What book will you read for Read a Book Day?

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday