Show and Tell: Imaginext Play Sets

In the world of toys, it seems that it is a little harder to find good toys for boys that encourage a lot of pretend play and imagination. I started my career working with adults, and it wasn't until I started specializing in working with kids that I realized how important pretend play is. There are so many skills that come from pretend play. Coming up with ideas and being able to express them to others, having abstract thinking, taking on someone else's perspective, learning about emotions, learning about what motivates people to do certain things (figuring out the 'why'), thinking outside of yourself, social problem solving, etc., etc.

Last year I had a friend donate a bunch of toys to my practice, and some of my favorites have been the imaginext play sets. They have also been the favorite of my class full of boys. It's so fun when toys that bring on the imagination bring kids together and play scenarios are created. I loved just sitting back and watching the magic unfold as kids who rarely interacted with others joined the play.

Here are some of the Imaginext play sets. If anything it can give you some ideas of some pretend play scenarios you can build with your kids (even if you don't have the play set).

For other pretend play ideas, you can check out of my Pretend Play Amazon Affiliate site, it's kind of a work in progress (meaning I just add things randomly, usually while I'm blogging, so I can show pictures of what I'm talking about). In case you don't want to scroll through all of it, here's kind of a breakdown. 
  • Pages 1-4: Puppets
  • Pages 4-8: Dress up
  • Pages 9-15: Kitchen/Home/Store/Work
  • Pages 16-17: Imaginext

P.L.A.Y. Project Research

I love the P.L.A.Y. Project (Play and Language for Autistic Youngsters). I love being able to coach parents as they connect with their children through play, and help their children progress developmentally. It's so exciting to see the progress of the kids, and to see how empowering this program is for parents. I really do love it.

In October 2014, P.L.A.Y. Project research was published in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics. Please check it out, it's exciting, as the P.L.A.Y. Project has been working on this research for the past few years.

Through the P.L.A.Y. Project (, they found significant improvements in:

  • caregiver/parent and child interaction
  • social interaction of children with autism
  • social-emotional development of children with autism
  • autism symptomatology
Secondary outcomes included:
  • improved parent stress and depression
  • P.L.A.Y. Project consultant fidelity

Show and Tell: Dear Santa

Dear Santa by Rod Campbell is a such a great book! It's similar to Dear Zoo, which I also love. The first time I had ever heard of these books I was doing an evaluation on a preschooler with a language delay. I was in the evaluation with a speech therapist and she had brought Dear Zoo along with a communication device that was already programmed to go along with the book. It was so fun to read and for the child to be able to "read" with us. Books like this are great for helping a child learn to use a communication device because there are so many repetitive phrases. It's also great for all kids because they can easily learn to "read" the book with you. I love books where kids can predict what comes next. There's so much you can do with that!

Another activity that I've done with this book in my preschool/kindergarten classes is I've wrapped up similar items and had the kids unwrap them as we read the story. It's fun, engaging, and also works on some nice fine motor skills. So we're hitting language, literacy, fine motor, turn taking, attention, etc.

Here's some of the vocab that is targeted in this book:

  • car
  • kite
  • ball
  • tiger (mask)
  • paint
  • trumpet
  • cat
  • small
  • big
  • bouncy
  • scary
  • messy
  • noisy

Wait Time

When a child has language delays, oftentimes their processing time is longer than we actually give them. We may say something like "get your coat on" and then when they don't immediately respond, we say "put your jacket on." Then when they still just look at us blankly we say "why aren't you doing what I asked?"

We think that we're giving them plenty of time to respond, but we're not. I've always had a goal to learn Spanish, and I know enough to get by, but not enough to have a conversation. I usually say I can speak like a 3-year-old. I can speak in 3-5 word sentences pretty well. When I have been traveling and people are talking to me (usually much faster than I can process) sometimes I look at them blankly as I try to figure out what they just said. Then just as I'm about to figure it out, they say rephrase what they just told me. So now, not only am I trying to figure out what they said initially, now I have to figure out a new sentence (which actually means the same thing as the first sentence, but I don't always know that). And so it slows me down even more. By the third sentence, I just kind of give up and say "I don't understand."

I honk this can relate to some of the kids we work with. We need to check ourselves to see if we are givng them enough time to process what we've said before we assume they're not listening. Counting to ten may feel like forever, but it may also give enough time for a response rather than prompting a response. Repeating instructions verbatim may also be helpful for kids who take a longer time deciding what you said the first time. 

Sometimes one of our greatest tools can just be our wait time. We don't always have to be in such a hurry :)


I know I'm a couple days late for Thanksgiving, but I just feel like I really need to express my gratitude today. I have been so blessed throughout my life, and I like to look back at how experiences and relationships have shaped my life over the years.

I feel so fortunate to have been led to a career that I absolutely love, I know that's not the case for everyone. Like a lot of new High School grads, I had little idea what I wanted to do for my career. Even when I finished my undergrad, I still wasn't exactly sure what I was going to do. I was lucky to have people enter my life that helped teach me and give me opportunities to grow to get me to where I am today.

I have had so much support from my friends and family, as well as families of individuals that I have had the opportunity to work with. I am continually receiving so much encouragement, and I know that it keeps me going through the difficult times. I am so grateful for all of my students/clients that have taught me so much about courage, love, and determination. I am also grateful for the people that come into my life that I may never even know their names. There have been some strangers that have had a huge influence in my life, and I'm grateful for that.

Whether the relationships we have with others are just a glimpse in time or whether they are lifelong relationships, they matter. Without one another, it would be difficult to progress to our full potential, we all need each other. I am so grateful for everyone who has crossed my path, and I hope that someday I can do for others what you all have done for me. Thank you for being part of my life!


Show and Tell: Letter School App

I know that whenever I do show and tell, I always say it's my favorite, but this app really is the favorite of all my students. We do Handwriting Without Tears at my school, so this is nice because it has a mode for Handwriting Without Tears. Another thing I love is that it follows the concept of I do it, we do it, you do it. The graphics are great and engaging for the kids so that they want to keep doing it over and over.

When I use Letter School, I generally have the kids learn the prompts and practice on paper or a chalk board first and then follow it up with the app. It's well worth the $5.  Check it out at

More senses than 5

Before I started working with kids with autism, I had heard quite a bit about sensory input. My sister is a pediatric occupational therapist and works a lot with sensory integration. Then when I started working in the school setting, I had one of the best occupational therapists working with my students. I have been privileged to be in the midst of some great occupational therapists throughout my career.

We always hear about the 5 senses, and then we hear about the 6th sense. Well, there is really a 6th sense and a 7th and probably more. The way we experience the world we live in is quite incredible, I have to say. There is so much to process, and our bodies are capable of so much.

I just want to give a quick overview of three of our senses: tactile, vestibular, and proprioceptive.  Some kids may be seekers, and others may be avoiders. And a kid can be a seeker in one area and an avoider in another. We are all different, and so we individualize our approach :)

TACTILE: This is how we take in information through our skin, we process information about touch with this sense. This has to do with lighter touch. Different textures may have different reactions. Some textures you may want to think about are soft, hard, slimy, wet, gooey, crunchy, fuzzy, etc.

VESTIBULAR: This is how we receive information through our inner ear. It has to do with movement, gravity, and balance. Some activities you may look at to see if your child avoids or seeks might be swinging, spinning, running, climbing, rocking, bouncing, etc.

PROPRIOCEPTIVE: This is how we take in information through our muscles, ligaments, and joints. We process information about body position and body parts. Activities might include wrestling, tickling, being buried in pillows, crashing into things, pushing heavy things, etc.

As we are more aware of a child's sensory motor profile, we can facilitate activities in these areas to promote greater engagement and help in the child's development.

If you're interested, here's another post I did a while back about our sensory systems: