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 www.letterschool.com.

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: http://www.playwithjoy.com/2013/01/our-sensory-systems-and-learning.html

Show And Tell: 10 Fat Turkeys


One of my favorite books to do in my preschool for Thanksgiving time is 10 Fat Turkeys by Tony Johnston.  This book is less than $4 on my amazon affiliate site, if you're looking for a copy.

This is a fun book that talks about numbers 1-10, it also a lot of fun actions.

Here are some skills you can work on while reading this book:

  • Counting to 10
  • Counting backwards
  • Action words
  • Pretend play: act it out
  • Repetitive phrases for the kids to repeat
  • Predicting the text (dramatic pauses for them to complete the phrases)
  • Find the rhymes
  • Turn taking (when using visuals, have kids take turns having the turkey fall off the fence)

Safety


I recently did a training for the staff I work with about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. It got me thinking a lot about the second level of the pyramid, which is safety. In order to continue up the pyramid to relationships, achievement, and self-actialization there is this need to feel and be safe.

If that safety is missing, it can be so hard to reach our potential because we fall into survival mode and oftentimes react in a way that might be defensive rather than moving forward towards our potential. We are just trying not to go backwards because of fear rather than confidently moving towards our goals and dreams.

I've been there, and it wasn't a very happy place for me. So how does this relate to the kiddos that we work with? Everything. It's important that we create an environment that is not only physically safe, but also emotionally safe. A place where it's ok to fall because you know that someone will be there to encourage you and cheer you on to keep going.

Temple Grandin is an incredible woman, who has helped the world understand autism on a different level. She is a scholar and a woman of success, and she knows what it's like first hand to have autism. At one conference I attended, she talked about how her amygdala (fear center) is four times larger than the average person. This has stuck out to me since I heard her say that. So building an environment of safety takes on even greater meaning. Being safe is one thing, but feeling safe can be on a completely different level.

Just a few things we can do to help kids feel safe is to build a routine that is predictable. Picture schedules can be a great way to communicate the schedule. Priming can help prepare for upcoming transitions. Having boundaries is really important. When the boundaries keep changing, it can be difficult for a child to be able predict what is going to happen. Being aware of sensory overload and how to cope with that is also important when considering the environment. There are so many things to consider, more than I am going to write in this post. Little by little you can get there, don't feel overwhelmed with all you feel needs to be done. Just take it one step at a time. Little by little as the child progresses, less supports will be required as you see them move through different stages.

Happy Halloween!

Hope you all had a safe and fun Halloween!!!

Show and Tell: Hyper Dash



If you have a child that's working on learning colors or numbers, this is a great game. I love it because it brings in a lot of movement which a lot of kids need. It's fun, and it's working on those same skills that you can work on sitting in a desk, but it's way more motivating.

For kids who are working on matching colors, you can have cards that have the color on it, and when it says a color, you can hold up that color so your child has a reference. If your child is working on identifying colors, all they have to do is listen to the instructions and it will say which color to find.

You can put the targets close together, or you can make it more difficult by spreading them around the room. There are also different settings to make the game easier or more difficult.

I wish there were more color targets, but for now, the colors include red, blue, green, yellow, and orange.

This toy works on
  • following directions
  • motor planning
  • color identification
  • number identification
  • math skills
  • turn taking
  • memory
  • speed
  • sensory motor
You can order this on my amazon affiliate site, and I'm guessing you can probably get it in some other stores as well.  There is also another version of this game, but it looks like the reviews weren't as good. This is the one I own, so I know I like it :)

Positive Reinforcement vs. Negative Reinforcement

In general, I think there are a lot of misconceptions about what negative reinforcement is. Before I started studying behavior, I just figured negative reinforcement was giving negative consequences when a child did something inappropriate. Well, I was wrong.

I'm just going to go over some definitions to clear things up a bit, and then I'll post another day about examples of different types of reinforcement.

What is reinforcement? Something is being reinforced when the behavior increases. For example if we want a child to put away his backpack every day after school, we want to reinforce that behavior so that the probability of it happening will increase.

So the result of reinforcement is the same (an increase or maintenance in behavior) whether it's positive or negative. Let's look at what positive and negative are referring to.

Positive (+) = adding something
Negative (-) = taking something away

Positive Reinforcement = adding something to increase or maintain the rate of the behavior
Negative Reinforcement = taking something away to increase or maintain the rate of the behavior

Example: A child is asked to finish his dinner. The positive reinforcement is that he can go play as soon as he's done (being able to play is added). The negative reinforcement is that the parent nagging the child to finish eating will stop (the nagging is taken away).

Sometimes it can be difficult to discriminate between these two types of reinforcement, and in some cases it may not really matter, but overall I feel like it's important to have a brief idea of the differences when having discussions about behavior, or reading literature about it. Hope this is helpful.