Valentine’s Day- a time to teach empathy

Kathy and her Three C's prepare for Valentine's DayValentine’s Day is not quite here, but Kathy has been working towards it for several weeks. Why? Because Valentine’s Day is a natural tie-in to empathy, a skill that many with autism have difficulty grasping. Kathy stresses to her students that what they learn is not just for one day, but all year round.


Empathetic words show that you care. She creates opportunities for her students to practice empathy with words using her “Three C’s.” Here are some examples that Kathy elicits by modeling, role playing, observing, and practicing:


Compliment: I like your shirt. You sure read well. Your smile makes me happy.


Comfort: Are you OK? Do you need help? Would you like a hug? Let’s do something together.


Cheer: Hey, you can do it. Keep going- yay! That looks great- can I join in?


Happy Valentine’s Day! A good excuse to share the ideas behind the Three C’s- Compliment, Comfort & Cheer- with others.

Stinky Diapers and 123TokenMe


At the APBA conference this past week in Las Vegas we met interesting behavior analysts from all over the world, and received great feedback. Maribel, however, took the prize for the most pungent idea yet for using 123TokenMe.


Maribel works primarily one-on-one with pre-school kids, but several times a week she runs a small skills group. Her idea? To take a group photo of her kiddos and set them up as a 123TokenMe group session. She said they love to call themselves something funny- Stinky Diapers, for example. She will set a target behavior such as Asking questions that the Stinky Diapers will work on together. She was already imagining how she’ll have each student come forward to tap a token for their group of peers after asking a question.

The reinforcer? A group activity that the Stinky Diapers will choose, such as a popcorn party, or playground time. Great idea, Maribel. Starting this week, have fun with 123TokenMe and the Stinky Diapers. Just don’t forget to hold your nose!

Look… It’s Super Kid!

IMG_0020-300x300December has seen a big change in my special education classroom- Social Butterfly has morphed into Super Kid. With the release of Version 1.1 of 123TokenMe the new superhero token has become a classroom favorite. We have used this interest to introduce Super Kid.


Super Kid uses his powers to make good choices, even when it is difficult: Listening to teacher instructions the first time, sharing with a classmate, and using kind words with friends. To build excitement we designed several lessons on superheroes. When Super Kid makes a classroom appearance, my kiddos know that he will be recognizing someone for using their own super power to make a good choice. 


As new tokens are introduced to 123TokenMe, it is easy to see how a classroom lesson will be tailored to match a new favorite. A bird? A plane? No it’s Super Kid, the super hero that helps me to inspire my students.

September’s Social Butterfly: Learning names and using greetings

IMG_0990-2-300x288Social Butterfly flies into my classroom every month to help with social skills. In September, her emphasis was on learning names and practicing greetings. “My name is…” “How are you?” “What’s your name?” “Nice to meet you, …” In addition, Social Butterfly had a surprise for my students this month. She helped each one create a Friendship Book.


Every Friendship Book had pictures of each student, teacher, and aide along with their name and two of their favorite things. The students took these books home with them every night to involve their families in learning about their classmates and staff.


We set up targeted behaviors for each student on 123TokenMe Pro. These behaviors were based on using greetings and learning peers’ names. Between Social Butterfly kisses and 123TokenMe award shows, my classroom was all aflutter in September.


In October, we’ll be asking Social Butterfly for help with everybody’s favorite two items.



Are social skills important? You butterfly believe it!

IMG_0918-2Each month my classroom has a “Social Butterfly” lesson. It starts dramatically, with Social Butterfly flying out of hiding. Her mission? To teach specific social skills that our students need to be successful friends. Each lesson incorporates one or two of the various elements of social skills. These include conversation, cooperation, teamwork, encouragement, emotions, language, and play.


Social butterfly flies around the room as a reminder to my students to practice their new social skill. When Social Butterfly observes a student using her skill of the month, she is quick to award a celebratory “butterfly kiss”. In addition, we are quick to follow Social Butterfly’s lead by reinforcing with a butterfly token. When students earn all of their butterfly tokens on 123TokenMe Pro, their reward is choosing a friend to do a fun activity with. Thus, the social skills are reinforced.


Are social skills important? You butterfly believe it!

Teachers- This idea is for you!

IMG_2003-300x300Summer here, with a 123TokenMe Pro idea for teachers. Like many of our ideas, this one comes to you straight from my classroom. This idea starts with using my iPad to take a group photo of my kiddos. Together they decide on a token type and what their reinforcement will be as a group. Maybe a popcorn party or group play with a classroom favorite. I snap a quick photo of their choice and add it to the reward chest.


Next, we decide on how the tokens will be earned. As you can guess, the “buy-in” for students increases greatly when they have been part of the process to choose the behavior that is being targeted.


For the group to earn a token EVERYONE must be joining in and participating. I also give an extra token whenever one student helps another. Guess what? Students start to reinforce each other for doing a good job! They also get after their friends for not being “cool.” They learn how to work as a group and become more socially aware of their peers. The 123TokenMe Pro app is powerful, and even more so when you creatively allow your students to help.


Picky Eaters Beware!

IMG_2113-300x300Very nice to meet you, Little Picky Eater. You’re about to meet your match- Miss Kathy, armed with my 123TokenMe app.


Here’s how: I start with five tokens and a target behavior of “take a bite.” Next, I use the app “peer to peer.” In other words, I have a peer use the iPad to award the tokens. The three of us have chosen an activity, such as building a fort, that they look forward to playing together after the successful completion of five bites. Shared activity time is something my kids work extremely hard for. I subtly model for the peer how to encourage the behavior- taking a bite of cheese, carrot, crunchy food, or ???


Working with a peer can be extremely motivating and is a key to learning social skills. If I work on this behavior during lunch or snack time, a whole group often starts cheering for my little picky eater as each token is awarded and transformed. A natural setting for social reinforcement- you can imagine the motivation this elicits. I’ve even had students keep going beyond their target of five and take extra bites. The feedback that the app and the peers combine to provide is very powerful.


Little Picky Eater? Not for long.





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.

Toys in the Middle

Toys in the MiddleTransitioning from summer play all by yourself to playing with others at school is tough for our children. A simple way to introduce opportunities for group play is to place toys in the middle, kids on the outside, with children around a common set of toys and facing each other. Whenever a child looks up from play and sees someone, it is a brief social opportunity.  Slowly increase the time you expect a child to play near peers.  Transition them to group play by including a preferred toy in the shared set.  Opportunities for teaching group play: in the sandbox with toys, on the floor with cars and blocks, or at the table with play-dough.

Besides creating opportunities, what else? If you want to sustain play, join in!  Model functional use of the toys by pushing the car or rolling the play-dough.  Add simple language or sound effects.  Enjoy the moment.  If you are not having fun, the child probably isn’t either. I love to tell people that I get paid to play. More info?  Please comment = )

Summer Snack Strikes Again!

Summer Snack strikes againSnack time has become a fun, interactive learning experience in our classroom. Each week we create a fun snack based on our theme of the month. For example, this week we are making monster faces using sliced bread, bananas, raisins, apples, pretzels, carrots and grapes. (Note: Food choices that would get the SFMandy stamp of approval!) My students learn to follow multiple step directions as well as the ingredients and the use of different cooking utensils.


Another bonus? They love the end product! It’s fun and creates a wonderful social atmosphere. By the end of the week most of the students are able to independently make the snack on their own. Another discovery is that they often end up trying and liking new foods. With their sometimes very limited food repertoire this is another great snack time bonus.