Here is an oldie but (updated) goodie! Lots of messages from all you Bingo lovers out there — and there are a LOT of you! So I thought I’d share this open-ended favorite for a fun St. Patty’s Day week activity. Use this no-prep (just print and go!) activity to target a variety of receptive and expressive language skills — object identification/labeling, visual discrimination, auditory processing at the word/phrase/sentence levels, comprehension of WH questions, seasonal vocabulary, language formulation, use of vocabulary and related descriptive concepts — and also articulation/phonological skills. These open-ended boards are perfect for differentiated instruction and always a favorite it seems. Enjoy!
Who is excited about the 2022 Winter Olympics?! ME!! With the opening ceremonies happening today, I am really excited about sharing my Olympic love with my students. I plan on using lots of Olympic-themed therapy ideas from the amazing Home Speech Home page, as well as some of my own personal faves. Here’s one thing that seems to be a universal favorite — Winter Olympics Bingo! You all probably know how much I love open-ended activities that can be differentiated to meet the needs of a variety of students (hello, time-saver on planning! Side note: I used to tell my graduate students that if you you know your students well and know their goals and current levels of performance, then you can create meaningful therapy with an empty pizza box!) Fortunately activities like this Winter Olympic Bingo are a lot more fun and relevant than an old pizza box.
This Olympic-themed set is perfect for introducing winter sports that may be unfamiliar to your students. Events like curling, ski jumping, biathlon, or skeleton…say what??? I like to introduce these events and the corresponding Bingo board pictures by reviewing information on Olympics.com site. You just click on the sport you want to learn about, and you can learn about the history of the events, updates on the events taking place, and even see videos.
Once we’ve reviewed the vocabulary, then the Bingo fun starts. What a wonderful way to celebrate winter and a world-wide tradition while targeting everyone’s speech-language goals? How are you highlighting the Winter Olympics for your students? I’d love to hear!
ONE LAST THANKSGIVING RESOURCE FOR YOU! I decided to create one last Thanksgiving resource for this season…and I really love this one! If you are looking for some Thanksgiving FUN that also targets speech, language, and literacy skills, here you go! This set includes multiple craft activities centered on a thankfulness theme. With these activities, you can target:
articulation – use thankfulness words as stimuli for target productions at word and connected speech levels
receptive and expressive language – target a variety of language skills using the included activities to address following directions, sequencing, answering wh questions, sentence formulation, and more!
literacy – reading and writing – review of everyone’s thankful items after crafts are completed
social-pragmatic language – theme of thankfulness promotes awareness of others’ feelings and can be used to promote conversation among peers
What you get:
1 thankfulness turkey craft activity with picture supports/AAC symbols (picture supports can be printed again for memory game or vocabulary review!)
1 thankfulness feather headband
3 additional Thanksgiving coloring pages
I definitely plan on using this resource in my therapy room this week!!
Thanksgiving fun continues in my therapy room! We’ve been busy at play, utilizing lots of my favorite toys that elicit language and can easily be paired with stimulus cards for any goal (spoiler alert: stay tuned for a blog post in the near future on that very topic!). I’ve also been using my seasonal favorites like my Articulation & Phonology Thanksgiving Bingo Bundle and my Open-ended Thanksgiving Game Board and my Thanksgiving Dinner Core Vocabulary Set. My clients all love these resources, but I’ve found myself needing something that tapped into some additional skills like descriptive concepts, inferential thinking, stating opinions, and formulating sentences to support an opinion. So I’ve just created the perfect tool to target those particular skills as well as many, many others! Here it is, my WOULD YOU RATHER – THANKSGIVING EDITION!!
This Would You Rather Activity Set provides the perfect seasonal tool to target a variety of academic, speech-language, and literacy goals including vocabulary, receptive & expressive language, articulation, choice making, inferential thinking, phrase & sentence formulation, organizational language, written language, and more! This minimal prep (just print, cut, and go!) activity will be a hit with your students, and gives you the flexibility to use with differentiated groups and in multiple sessions.
WHAT YOU GET:
- 4 pages of Would You Rather text cards with 16 total Would You Rather Questions
- 4 pages of Would You Rather picture cards – for students not yet able to read and/or to use as visual support for students using text cards.
- 1 page of three model sentence starters for students to use when formulating verbal responses and when writing.
- 1 graphic organizer to organize thoughts for written explanation/rationale.
- 1 paragraph page for students to write their rationale for a choice they made on a select question (can be printed multiple times).
I hope you enjoy this therapy resource! I know I will, and I have a hunch my clients/students will too! Let me know how it works for you.
Anyone else love FREE therapy tools?! Here’s a new one just for you this Thanksgiving season. I’ve got three, FREE pacing boards you can download for your therapy room, classroom, or home! Pacing Boards are an excellent visual support you can use for so many purposes. Use these Thanksgiving-themed pacing boards to give students visual/tactile/kinesthetic feedback for reducing rate of speech, sequencing sounds/syllables in multisyllabic words, increasing mean length of utterance, formulating sentences, increasing conversational reciprocity and more!! These pacing boards can be essential tools to increase student’s independence as they practice skills; perfect for students to use at home, too! Just print onto cardstock or durable paper and/or laminate. Can also be used as game score cards, token reinforcement cards, pattern sets or sorting cards. I LOVE pacing boards because they are super versatile and students really benefit from these low-tech visual supports. Here you go! Free from me to you.
It’s finally November! Early Fall/Halloween season was such a fun, festive time, and now I am ready for MORE! I am of course looking forward to the winter holidays, but I am not the type of person who immediately starts singing carols on November 1st. NOOOOO. First we need to savor this special time of year when we count our blessings and offer thanks — and also look forward to a delicious feast! Thanksgiving season in my therapy room over the years has fostered some special memories. And I have created a LOT of Thanksgiving themed resources! Here are just a few I thought I would share:
- Thanksgiving Descriptive Vocabulary Set – Target descriptive vocabulary in a variety of receptive and expressive language tasks with this bundled activity set. Skills addressed include: Thanksgiving Food identification and labeling, comprehension/use of color words in phrases and sentences, identification/use of adjectives to describe object attributes, categories and word classes, identification and description of similarities and differences…and MORE!
- Thanksgiving Articulation & Phonology Bingo Bundle – NO PREP! *84 PAGES*
This Thanksgiving Articulation & Phonology BINGO Bundle is the PERFECT resource for your therapy room Target a variety of articulation and phonology skills with Thanksgiving-themed Bingo Bundle. This 84-page set can also be used to target object identification/labeling, visual discrimination, auditory processing at the word/phrase/sentence levels, comprehension of WH questions, seasonal vocabulary, language formulation, use of vocabulary and related descriptive concepts, and additional articulation/phonological skills. These open-ended boards are perfect for differentiated instruction of students in your small groups or larger classes. What you get…84 Pages in 6 different Bingo Sets:
- Thanksgiving /k/ and /g/ Bingo
- Thanksgiving /f/ and /v/ Bingo
- Thanksgiving /l/ Bingo
- Thanksgiving /r/ Bingo
- Thanksgiving /s/ Clusters Bingo
- Thanksgiving Consonant Clusters Bingo
Each Bingo Set includes:
- 6 unique color bingo game boards, each containing the same vocabulary words but in different positions on the boards.
- 6 unique black and white game boards for students to color
- 1 page calling cards (color).
- Thanksgiving Receptive and Expressive Language Bingo – Super popular resource that I love to use year after year. And…NO PREP!! Target receptive and expressive language skills with this Thanksgiving Bingo Game. This 14-page set has been newly UPDATED and EXPANDED! Use the Bingo game to target object identification/labeling, visual discrimination, auditory processing at the word/phrase/sentence levels, comprehension of WH questions, seasonal vocabulary, language formulation, and use of vocabulary and related descriptive concepts. These open-ended boards are perfect for differentiated instruction of students in your small groups or larger classes.
What you get:
- 6 unique color bingo game boards, each containing the same vocabulary words but in different positions on the boards.
- 6 unique black and white game boards for students to color
- 1 page calling cards (color).
- Thanksgiving Dinner Core Vocabulary Activity Set – This set is one of my personal favorites. Target functional communication, vocabulary, and a variety of language skills with this Thanksgiving-themed activity set! These activities are designed to provide students practice with making comments, expressing opinions, and formulating phrases and sentences using core words and Thanksgiving vocabulary.
WHAT YOU GET:
- Sorting Activity Page – students can sort Thanksgiving foods into categories to express their opinion and show what foods they like.
- Thanksgiving Food Picture Cards – Use for sorting activity; you can also print extras for a matching/memory game, or to use in literacy centers, on word walls, or additional crafts/activities.
- Thanksgiving Foods Coloring Page – students can color the pictures to show what foods they like; you can also use this page for practice following verbal directions (e.g., “place a red X on all the foods you do NOT like”). You can print extras copies for use in literacy centers, task boxes, and more.
- Sentence Strips with Carrier Phrases – these visual supports provide support for students formulating sentences to express opinions, make comments, and answer questions. The Thanksgiving Food Picture Cards can be used here to complete the carrier phrases.
- Thanksgiving Dinner Core Board – this low-tech communication board utilizes practical core vocabulary words that are flexible enough to use with ANY activity. Students can also engage in structured practice for Thanksgiving dinner celebrations using this core board along with Thanksgiving Food Picture Cards or other visuals. Make extra copies for your classroom or therapy room!
- Things We Can Say Practice Pages – these visual supports utilize a variety of messages for students to practice with foods they like and foods they do not like. These phrase-based messages are perfect for social interaction with family and friends and support students as they make comments, express opinions, ask questions, and answer questions.
These are just a few of the Thanksgiving materials I’ve created; I also have other activities (with more to come!) Is there anything you’d like to see? Let me know! And in the meantime, enjoy this Sweet November!
I am very excited to serve as featured contributor for the American Speech-Language Hearing Association’s online publication, ASHASphere. I was asked to write an article about the groups I facilitate at Towson University for adults with autism. Here is my article, featured today on their website:
Thanks for reading!
Interested in some new therapy supplies? Take advantage of Teachers Pay Teachers HUGE Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale! Every single LiveSpeaklove product will be on SALE for 28% off! Now is your chance to stock up on all of the LiveSpeakLove goodies you need. Holidays are our specialty– and we have LOTS of holiday-themed goodies that will give you a December to remember. Keep your prep work to a minimum and target a variety of speech and language goals using my theme-based activities. Fun, engaging activities that allow for differentiation and are aligned to the CCSS…take advantage of this HUGE event and you will have the best, easiest holiday season ever! Don’t forget to check out my FREEBIES!!
Thank you and Happy Holidays from LiveSpeakLove!
Happy November from LiveSpeakLove! As we polish off the last of the Halloween candy, many of us are gearing up for the next big holiday…Thanksgiving! November is typically a blur for me with the ASHA convention, American Education Week and anticipation of the ever popular Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanzaa holiday season. But I always make it a point to very purposefully and carefully appreciate the moment that we have for Thanksgiving. I hope you do, too! To help get you get ready for Thanksgiving in the speech-language therapy room, here are a collection of Thanksgiving activities I made targeting comprehensive skill sets from the CCSS. These activity sets allow for differentiated instruction in individual, small group or whole class settings. Everything you need for this month in one spot…Enjoy!!
What are YOU thankful for this November?
One of my personal goals this year is to increase the use of technology in my therapy sessions. Much of my “free” time can be spent compiling lists and exploring possible resources, applications, Universal Design for Learning strategies and interactive programs. I do plan on purchasing an iPad in the near future to use in my private practice, so I have been bookmarking lists of apps and other resources that the iPad offers. Though the school district for whom I also work has not yet authorized the use of iPads for instructional use, I feel quite fortunate to work in a setting that does offer a variety of additional technology resources — flipcams, smartboards, the ActivPanel I now have in my therapy room, and more. I have developed a few favorite tools that students really seem to enjoy, and the opportunities for engagement and interaction have increased immeasurably. I like to think I am pretty engaging all by myself, but there is something to be said about therapy that includes music, color, sound, movement, and electronic modes of presentation. Children today are wired for the technology (read more about this thought in my Signs of the Times post.)
One therapy tool that is quickly marching its way into first place is the use of video to target speech-language goals.For students whose performance is greatly enhanced with the use of music and visual stimuli, videos help to secure focused attention and engage their minds for interactive learning. I often insert a video into a smartboard lesson, designed to reinforce a theme or idea. Below is a video I found recently on Youtube, which I used in a caterpillar/butterfly seasonal theme. I used the video in a smartboard lesson that reviewed the lifecycle of the caterpillar/butterfly, and reinforced the recently presented story, The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle. The video helped to help model use of descriptive concepts, and we used colorful scarves to incorporate motor movement and sensory input as we pretended to fly like the butterflies. Students were absolutely mesmerized by this tranquil video! They readily formulated their own phrases and sentences to describe colored butterfly pictures following the video:
I’ve also posted recently about using Animoto to create videos using music and selected images. I made another video today with a group of students to target expressive language, descriptive concepts, theme vocabulary and answering wh questions. To introduce summer theme vocabulary, I created a folder of Google images showing kids enjoying a variety of summer activities. Students took turns selecting the pictures they wanted to use in the video, and we practiced individual speech-language goals as we selected the pictures. Here is a visual I created to highlight the sequential directions for this video-making activity:
After we selected pictures, we uploaded them to Animoto, added the music track, and reviewed our objectives/progress while we waited for the video to finish “production” (a process that only takes a couple of minutes.) Then we were ready for step 4 — watching the video! I just loved seeing how connected and animated my students were when they saw the video and recalled the images they contributed. I noted increases in attention, participation, spontaneous verbalizations and use of targeted concepts in ALL students in the group. Here is the video that we made:
With so much success, I plan on using video as a therapy tool as much as possible — flipcam video and mobile device image uploads to star students themselves, interactive video clips in smartboard files, youtube videos that highlight concepts or themes, and other educational videos from sites like BrainPop, PBSKids, and more. I still reserve time and energy to create hands-on activities using games, toys, concrete objects and pictures; but the use of video as a therapy tool is clearly a winner in my book…er, umm– electronic reading device. 🙂
One struggling parent recently described her son’s speech to me as sounding “like nothing more than a robot.” This description spoke volumes about what it must be like as a parent of a child with autism or similar disorder. A child whose very personality is veiled by a mask of robotic speech — scripted sentences, drill-like productions, automated phrases to answer questions or label objects . As a mom, I can understand the ache that this mom was feeling for her child. She longed for a genuine conversation, a sweet moment to glimpse into her child’s mind and hear him speak with intention and meaning. Working in the public school setting and my additional private practice, I encounter many families struggling with this issue. A large number of my students are children with autism or similar disorders that include significant expressive language impairments. Many of these students are somewhat verbal, but their expressive language appears limited to verbal imitations of given models or simple, scripted sentences following a visual. Often, the presence of echolalia and/or attention difficulties further compound the expressive language issues. ABA or structured expressive language trials often increase verbalization of targeted concepts and scripted sentences, but the spontaneous language may still be very limited. As a trained speech therapist, I know that repetitive trials are often the key to skill acquisition, language memory and motor planning. But I also know that for students struggling with functional, spontaneous language, I need to move beyond the drills, repetitions and the neat sets of ten that convert easily into percentage scores. I need to create moments of intention and meaning that can be reinforced naturally, in the moment. There are a few tricks I’ve acquired that I consider very effective tools to create spontaneous language opportunities. I am pleased to share them with you here in my first official “Top Five” post. Many of these ideas may come naturally to you as a parent or clinician; maybe not. Either way, I hope these ideas will inspire you to think and reflect, and to seek genuine, spontaneous moments of language with your child or student.
Top Five Ways to Encourage Spontaneous Language:
1. Use Communication Temptations – I previously posted about lots of ways to “tempt” children to communicate. Temptation is a very powerful motivator. Though you may be finely in tune with your student and know exactly what they want or think, be sure to encourage functional communication skills as you interact. Offer activities that require the student to be motivated by something they want, need, love or desire. In my post, you can read some of the tools I often use and how to effectively create communication temptations.
2. Use Elements of Surprise – this tool is one of my favorites for increasing spontaneous language. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing a quiet, hard-working but rather disinterested child suddenly come to life with exclamations of excitement, laughter and delight. The surprises do need to be varied and presented infrequently or they become, well, not very surprising. And some surprises might be startling or even scary for students, so you should closely monitor students’ reactions. But the right balance of surprise can be an extremely effective tool in fostering expressive language and meaningful connections with your student. Here are a few of my favorite surprises:
- Surprise idea #1: Motion sensor toys – I have had very good success with toys that come to life in song, dance moves or cascades of giggles. These toys can be found just about anywhere they sell toys. My latest find is animals that roll and erupt in side-splitting, contagious, can’t-catch-your-breath fits of giggles. My students have all loved my new roly-poly giggling guy, who I first introduced as “my very kind friend who sometimes gets a little silly.” We enjoyed lots of laughs as we practiced language concepts. I have the alligator version of this toy, but it does the same thing as this little pig:
- Surprise Idea #2: Planned “accidents” – Accidents catch people off-guard and create instant reactions. I love hearing students express their surprise, pleasure, or even worry as a train drives right off the track or crashes into another train. When a puzzle is “accidentally” knocked off the table onto the floor, I often hear complete sentences like, “Oh no, what happened? It’s ok, I’ll help you!” We work together to remedy the problem, and their spontaneous language is reinforced in a very real-word situation. (Photo courtesy of YummyDelicious.com.)
- Surprise Idea #3: Hidden objects – Yes, it’s true, I am known as the Bag Lady in some parts around here. I often bring bags of interesting objects, toys or theme accessories with me. Admittedly born with a somewhat dramatic flair, I take pride in my ability to create an atmosphere of anticipation, mystery and eventual excitement/awe with a mere “something” hidden in a bag. Before the big reveal, I encourage students to guess what might be in the bag, accepting and reinforcing virtually any answer but also calling attention to the bag size and shape. Students can reach in the bag and pull out –whatever it is– which can be fun or even delightful to a curious child. Spontaneous language, as well as other targeted language concepts can be elicited as they react to what they have found. You can also hide objects buried in sand for students to discover as they dig, use the computer or smartboard to reveal hide pictures that can be revealed with the click of a mouse or stylus. Hands-on, interactive activities like these create opportunities for spontaneous language that traditional flash card or picture stimuli do not. (above photo courtesy of glamzzle.com.)
(photo courtesy of Vappingo.com)
3. Make Mistakes – Many times as I am working with a student, I purposefully insert mistakes to catch them off guard and create a reaction. Often, their reaction involves correcting my mistake, a task eliciting language targets without direct prompting. I may use the wrong word in my sentence and simply pause with a confused look on my face as I scratch my head and say, “Is that right?” Another mistake I often make is to hand them the wrong tool or object. If we have just decided to use a certain toy or game, I might hand them a puzzle instead, or maybe even the plant from my desk! A confused look from me usually elicits a reaction, and possibly a clarification of what I was supposed to get. One of my favorite moments using this “purposeful mistake” strategy was when a student remembered what I had done and spontaneously made a similar mistake in our next session. Before I could respond to his mistake, he burst into laughter saying, “I didn’t make a mistake; I tricked you!” Yes, REAL language, without structured prompts; a glimpse into his mind and heart.
4. Use Humor – Closely related to using elements of surprise and making mistakes, there is another skill I am proud to exhibit– the ability to be silly and often make a fool of myself! Whether it be acting out silly animal actions, donning a ridiculous hat or mask, or getting goofy during some interactive play, the use of humor can elicit focused attention, interactive smiles, giggles and of course, spontaneous language. One trick I tried recently came from an idea I found on Pinterest, originally from I Love 2 Teach. I modified the idea slightly and created a Boardmaker file of different voices to produce. I used the idea with a group of students working on following directions, and they each picked the voice they wanted me to use to give the direction. INSTANT engagement, amusement and focus on my verbal direction! I plan on using this tool in other types of activities very soon, encouraging the students to try out the different voices on their own. Here is the Boardmaker file for you to download:
5. Play – This Top 5 idea may sound obvious, as many clinicians, teachers and parents incorporate play into their time with language-impaired students. But play, REAL play, is essential for developing spontaneous language, social skills and creativity. Many children do not know how to play. They need experience and appropriate models. When I first began using play in therapy, I would bring out bins of fun toys and then initiate what I thought were interactions, but were actually play-based commands. “Okay, where’s the bear? That’s the bear! Ok, put the bear on the table. You say, ‘On the table!’ ” Sometimes my “play” more closely resembled correction…”No, that’s a chair; I said on the table, put the bear on the table. ” Looking back, I am pretty sure that the children to whom these commands were directed during their “play” time did not really have very much fun. These directives involved toys, yes, but the activity could hardly be called interactive play. Now, I realize the things I wish my much younger self had known. Specifically, real play should involve letting the child explore and choose what he/she wants to do, with interactions built-in to the chosen activity. Interactions are encouraged during moments of play as the child discovers what they find intriguing, amusing or just plain fun. I watch their behavior, and join them in their exploration. As we play, I initiate dialogue using characters or toys as the “speakers” As we play, I also model language production and elicit responses through play behavior, but I stay away from the commands. Throughout the session, I might encourage them to verbalize requests or imitate words and language concepts, but our play is child-led and consists of much more than a series of commands. Using true interactive play is an engaging activity that sets the stage for spontaneous verbalizations, comments, requests and engaging time to connect.
Okay, so there it is…my first Top Five list. Thank you for reading, and if you use any of these ideas, please let me know how it works for you. Thanks for visiting LiveSpeakLove!
I was trying to think of a clever title for this entry…some alliterative phrase that captures the essence of my theme. I quickly decided to stick with the matter-of-fact title, “Visual Supports for Behavior,” because matter-of-fact is what my message is intended to be — children often need visual supports for behavior. We know that certain students respond particularly well to visual supports. Research documents the need for visuals with the autism population, and there are many great options for visuals to use throughout these students’ school day. But what about students who do not have autism? Might they need visual supports as well? Absolutely!
Using visual supports in a school environment targets diverse needs across student populations. Visual supports can tap into the learning styles of students with a preference for visual presentation, assisting them in the processing and storage of information. Visuals can also increase comprehension in students struggling with auditory comprehension, providing a visual prototype that can hold meaning for them in a confusing world of fast-paced direction and instruction . Students with attentional difficulties often need visual supports as well. For a student overloaded with environmental stimuli in a busy classroom, visual supports can help capture their attention and give them a concept on which to focus as they process verbal information. In addition, many students with executive function difficulties (related to attentional difficulties) might appear to grasp a concept well during group instruction. Students can follow along with information as a teacher visually demonstrates a concept and walks the class through tasks in step-by-step fashion. However, when asked to apply that same skill to complete individual seat work, students with attention and/or executive function difficulties often flounder. But visual process charts and graphic organizers can help students complete tasks with independence as they practice the skill. A great site for graphic organizers is found here, but I often make my own to meet individual students’ needs.
One way I frequently use visual supports is to address (or prevent) behavior problems. Many students with special needs have deficits that can trigger behavior issues. Students with language difficulties often have difficulty expressing how they feel, or what they want. Issues with impulse control may interfere with classroom routines and social interactions. Students living in poverty or unstable homes may have difficulties coping with the demands of a structured learning environment. Little three and four year-olds without any prior school experience are now attempting to navigate the social world of new people and new expectations. They long to interact with peers but do not yet know how to properly initiate that interaction. Sitting on the rug at circle time is a challenge when they are accustomed to free play and exploration. All of these issues can cause negative behaviors to emerge, behaviors that can interfere with the learning of others. SLPs are frequently involved in the problem-solving process and are uniquely skilled at developing materials to address such behaviors. Social stories, super pictures, behavior charts, incentive charts, picture schedules and communication boards are all strategies SLPs keep in their toolbox so that students can make progress in the classroom.
Here are a few of my favorite visuals, resources that I specifically designed for students needing visual input to assist with comprehension of expectations. I have experienced great success using these simple but powerful tools.
Visual display to help students express how they are feeling (sometimes they don’t even know until the visual seems to “match” what they are experiencing):
Another visual display that was made for a student to keep on his desk so that he could express the emotions he was frequently experiencing:
Often students need individualized prompting during instruction time to follow classroom rules and expectations. Younger students and/or students with impulsive behaviors need one-step verbal commands to remind them of what they should be doing. These pictures can be cut apart, laminated and placed on a key ring for portability and easy access, or they can be enlarged and cut apart to use as a super-picture presentation. I keep these pictures and other similar visuals in a pocket chart on the wall in my therapy room:
One of my FAVORITE, most often-used visual is the First-Then board. I am posting one template below, but I have many other styles I frequently use. I have also been known to grab post-it notes in a therapy moment when necessary, and draw pictures depicting the first-then expectation. I verbally use this terminology to communicate expectations, even with my own children. “First homework; then T.V.” The idea is to state the expectation, and when it is finished a more preferred activity can be completed. The first-then chart posted below was used most successfully with a high-functioning student with autism who could complete his classwork with assistance when he tried, but he often became overwhelmed and refused to attempt anything. The classroom teacher and I worked together with the student to identify a list of brief, preferred activities that could be used as a reward after he finished his assignment. The student chose pictures of the preferred activities to place on the bottom row of the chart each day (things like get a drink, color a picture, take a walk, say hi to people in the office, etc.) For each activity he was assigned, he chose one of his preferred options and placed it on the “then” spot. (e.g., First – math worksheet; Then – color a picture.) With a motivating goal easily within reach, the student was able to complete chunks of work and take mini-breaks for rewards throughout his day. His meltdowns literally vanished within a day or two of introducing this tool:
For students needing a visual reminder of how to make “happy” choices, I often use these supports:
A great tool to give (positive and negative) feedback to a student while you are teaching is a non-verbal signal or visual — no need to stop instruction and give negative attention to a child who is misbehaving. With older students, a simple thumbs up or down could work. With younger students, I like to use the happy face/ sad face flip visual. Just cut out the two circles, laminatend tape to opposite sides of a craft/popsicle stick. Present any student with nonverbal feedback as you continue with your lesson. I have witnessed more than a few students break their cycle of negative behaviors by experiencing confidence and success when they are rewarded positively with the “happy” side (catch them doing something positive whenever you can — it works!)
The beauty of visual supports is that they can be tailored to exactly fit the situation at hand. Programs like PowerPoint, Boardmaker, ActivInpire, MS Word, and many others allow for creative design and image selection. The internet hosts a wealth of ideas, templates and other resources to help in the process. The bottom line? Many SLPs and teachers encounter students who are struggling to meet curricular and behavioral expectations. Can we eliminate what is causing those issues? Unfortunately, not usually. But visual supports are a wonderful tool (and in my experience, sometimes the solution) to helping these students move beyond barriers that block their progress. Increased comprehension, independence and compliance result in better learning opportunities for students, and better relationships with those around them.