Lights! Camera! Action!

Hollywood directorA favorite strategy that I have recently incorporated into my classroom is video-modeling. From reading the research, I knew how effective it was for children with autism. I didn’t realize, though, just how easy it would be to use in my classroom. I found some video-modeling DVD’s online, but realized that using actual items from my classroom would be more effective. I used my iPhone to video skills that I wanted my students to learn:  play, functional, transitions and routines.


The best part?  Customizing it for each child takes only a few minutes.  I found that video-modeling was a powerful tool for students in my class with difficulty in attending. In addition to an increase in attending, their acquisition of the skill was quicker.  Helpful hint:  Remember to use simple words and to record only what you want the student to see. For example, if you are teaching hand washing you might want to video something similar to the  video shown here that I produced.


Remember to concentrate on the hands. Don’t include the personls face or any extra background. It helps the student to focus on exactly what you want them to learn. Try it out.  You’ll love it!


Here is another example that focuses on play. In this case, the feeding and care of a puppy. Try to use items found in your classroom. Remember you can simplify or expand the play sequence based on the individual. Have fun!




Make ‘em Work? Yes!

Young boy with large backpackGetting back into the routine again can be difficult with our children, so something I always recommend for parents is to provide sensory strategies– like heavy work opportunities or deep pressure for children before they enter the classroom in the morning. How do you incorporate this organizing and calming type of sensory input? A few simple ideas are: push pillows on your child in bed, wrap them in blankets and gently press on their arms and legs, have them carry a heavy backpack around the house and to the classroom, or even having them climb on the playground equipment or hang from the bars works! It is truly amazing how a little sensory strategy can help us all to feel ready for a big day! 

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No More 0 to 60 in Seconds.

Stop watchSummertime is a favorite season for us! It is a time when our family is at it’s happiest! Why?  Because we don’t have the extra task demands and high achieving, perfectionist attitude that the school year brings. The house is abuzz with happy kiddos that enjoy the new schedules that summer brings. With that being said we have come to:

A screeching halt! Hear the brakes? As the summer season sets the clouds begin to roll in. Transitions make things challenging and stressful. Which means that mother and child do not always seem eye to eye. How to combat this? Or at least make it easier? I have found a few things that seem to be working and lessening the stress for all. First praise, ( positive reinforcement). “I love the way you smile when you awake.” “I love the way you help set your clothes out at night.” “I love the way you are taking your time while brushing your teeth.” This seems to set the right mood. However there are those moments when things go sideways. Not always easy to think in the moment. Times when I am not on my game. Creating not so positive parenting moments.

My kiddo is all too keen on detecting voice inflection changes. However processing those tones breaks down. “Why is everyone mad at me?!” “Nobody likes me!” “Everyone hates me!” is how it is heard. So I began to think what could we say as parents and siblings to help our ASD child and sibs communicate. Some catch phrase that would allow better communication before being in an unhappy place. While brainstorming after a chain of a not so great moments I/my little man came up with “T.O.” for a buzz word. Each time there is a moment when I am beginning to have my voice change tone or a sibling starts, my little man calls out “T.O.” aka “Time Out”.

This allows myself, my husband or sibs to take a step back and to re-evaluate the situation and tone. It also gives our frustrated little man a moment for calm breathing and verbal interaction. “Why are you mad at me?” This leads to better communication, better understanding and better feelings. Less moments spent going from 0-60 in seconds… It helps us to all keep “calm engines. So far this is shaping up to be a great school year! True that it is early, but maybe we can keep the summertime sun around a little longer! 

Get into the Swing of Swinging.

Swing setMost kids love the swings, even if it’s just getting into the bucket seat or graduating to the banana seat.  Getting kids to learn how to swing themselves can be a bit tricky and frustrating.  Here is a tip to get them going.  Once you get your child swinging, kneel in front of them with your arms extended outward and your palms toward the child.  Ask them to touch your hands with their feet.  When they do, give them a good push backwards, emphasizing bend legs as the verbal cue.  This will help to reinforce that bent knee position.  As they come towards you, legs out or touch my hands are good verbal cues to get that fun push backwards. 



It Takes a War

Susie playing cardsEveryone knows how to play War, the world’s simplest card game, right?  Thanks to Susie, I sure do.  Over twenty plus years we played hundreds of games.  War may be simplistic, but with Susie it anchored our relationship. In addition to sparking countless hours of together time, it helped me have a verbal relationship with a non-verbal individual. I became an expert:  Her furrowed brow of concentration when laying down cards, to her grin after each of her winning cards.  The lived for moment, though, was when Susie won the rare double tiebreaker.  Her grin quickly morphed into a full faced smile and culminated in a heartfelt happiness laugh that allowed me to glimpse pure joy.  Simple?  Maybe on the surface, but thanks to Susie, a lifelong lesson for me to always look deeper.

The Friendship Book

The friendship bookSeveral years ago my SLP introduced a great way for my class of kiddo’s to learn classmate names and other special information. We ask each student, or their parents, for their favorite food, toy and place. Each student has a dedicated page in a Friendship Book.” Their page consists of their photo and photos of their favorites. Each student is given their own Friendship Book to take home to read. Several copies are also put in the classroom library. The kids love reading about their friends and learning their likes. They especially enjoy finding when their favorites match a friend’s. 

When the students know everyone’s name, we cover up the photo. The kids guess who it is, based on the likes. We also use it to practice asking and answering questions. For example, based on a picture of the friend’s likes, the student has to think of a question to ask. If his friend likes Disneyland he might ask, “What is your favorite ride?” It is a great tool for students to learn about each other and to engage the class in a variety of learning activities.