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.

Show and Tell: ABC Mouse App

Have you seen this app? A to Z Music Videos by ABC Mouse

This was by far one of the favorite apps of the whole school year. You can buy all of the letters for pretty cheap, but you can also win tickets to earn new songs. There are different genres for each of the letters, and my students loved them all.

If you're curious what the videos look like, here's my students' favorite one, the letter B. Beware, these are the types of songs that kids can listen to a million times a day, and they get stuck in your head and they're hard to get out. I still love them though. I think you can see all of them on youtube, if you need a preview.

Safety Day & Trunk or Treat in Ogden, Utah

This is a great activity set for this week! A great activity for the whole family!

Seeing The Every Day

The Value Of A Day from seeing the everyday on Vimeo.

Have you ever heard of the magazine Seeing The Every Day? I had never heard of it, but a friend of mine gave me a copy a couple months ago, and I have fallen in love with it. I think that one of the reasons why it has resonated with me so much is because it focuses on how "small ordinary acts" shape our relationships and also affect our influence in strengthening the development of others.

This is exactly what what I love about teaching families about PLAY Project. We are focusing on relationships as we help their children with their development. One of the first techniques I teach families is called 'Being With' and that's exactly what it is. It's not about telling the child what to do, or how to do it, it's first just about being with them. Not just being there physically, but being present. Seeing what their interests are, seeing what their intentions are, and seeing what their ideas are. They may not have the verbal skills to tell us what they're thinking, but we can learn to observe and have rich interactions with them around what may feel like a very ordinary moment.

Interactions with a child with autism may sometimes be unpredictable, but we can still embrace those moments and rejoice in them. It's not about the end product, who cares if the art project doesn't go as planned. It's about the interactions we're having, it's about the relationship that we're building. At times you may not feel like you're accomplishing much, but I can promise you that through your loving interactions with your child, you are doing more than you can even imagine was possible. Nothing can replace those "ordinary moments" with the ones you love.

I want to share one of my favorite quotes from Seeing The Every Day, Issue 25. As you read it, you may think that your child doesn't have "conversations" with you, but I want you to think of a conversation as those back and forth interactions you have with one another, it doesn't matter if words are involved.

"As we focus on one another, very ordinary moments, even conversations, become significant opportunities to do what means the very most -- to come to better know and care for each other."

You can check out Seeing The Every Day at www.seeingtheeveryday.com.

Circles of Communication

What is a circle of communication? The first half of the circle is an initiation (someone knocks on the door) and the second half is the response (someone else opens the door). There are all different sizes of circles. Some are big and obvious, and some are more subtle and sometimes we miss them if we're not paying close attention. A big circle might be calling someone's name and them turning around and saying "what?" A smaller circle might be when you're playing chase and your child glances back at you to see if you're still coming. A really subtle circle might be when you glance at your child and you see them briefly look back at you.

Circles can be really hard to count at times, but the important thing is this back and forth interaction. As we look at our world around us, it is all about these back and forth interactions with others. Relationships are based on these back and forth interactions. With some kids, this may be a difficult thing to master. They may not see a purpose in it, they may not find enjoyment in it, or they may just not know how to do it.

Dr. Stanley Greenspan introduces the functional developmental levels through DIR/Floortime. Circles of communication begin at functional developmental level 3. As we work with kids to help them progress through the functional developmental levels, it is important that we are aware of how many circles of communication they are getting. We use simple techniques to encourage more circles of communication. As the child increases the number of circles of communication they are having, we also bump them up to a higher functional developmental level.

These circles do not have to be verbal circles, a kid who does not talk yet can get hundreds of back and forth circles without saying a word. How do we do it? We do it through PLAY. It is important that as children learn to increase their circles of communication that we are giving them opportunities to express themselves on their own. We can tell a kid what to do every step of the way, but how much more rich and motivating would it be if the child is giving us cues of what they want instead. We need to follow their lead.

One of the many techniques that you can use is called 'playful obstruction.'  In many ways, that just means playing dumb. We're all good at that, even when we don't mean to be, right? Instead of doing all the mind reading that we tend to do, play dumb. Make the child open a few more circles to get what they want. Give them the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, make them expand, make them work. Just by playing dumb, you can extend the interaction. If it's really really motivating, then expect even more. Be aware of where that breaking point is, and take them to the limits. If you lose them, that's ok, then you know that next time you'll pull back a little sooner.

Having these circles of communication is really important, and is a pre-requisite to having conversations, or engaging in higher levels of play. Try to count how many consecutive circles your child has a time, and try to expand on that. If there's so many it's hard to count, great! Instead of working on the quantity of cirlces, start to work on the quality.

Show and Tell: Go Away Big Green Monster

A preschool favorite is always Go Away Big Green Monster! Last year I found the Go Away Big Green Monster app, and my students loved it. Their favorite part was the song, and I loved hearing them sing it at the top of their lungs. I wish the app was a little more interactive, like if the kids could move the body parts where they should go, or something like that. However, the song alone is worth the $2. The interactive part of the app is that you can touch the nose and it wiggles, or touch the hair and it wiggles and makes a noise.

The picture above is from a while ago when we made green monster faces. Last year I did this activity with my students, except I used a green paper plate and put velcro on it. We laminated the pieces and put velcro on them so that the kids were able to use their own monsters to put on and take off the body parts while we read the story together. The kids really liked that.

Things we learn from Go Away Big Green Monster:

  • Body parts: eyes, nose, ears, hair, mouth, teeth
  • Colors: yellow, bluish-greenish (?), red, white, purple, green
  • Sequencing: Predicting what goes next
  • Emotions: have the kids act out different emotions
  • Reading: All my students could "read" this book independently. The receptive phrases make it an easy one to memorize.
One of the repetitive phrases is "Go Away" which one of my students would go home and yell "Go Away!" to everyone. The mom wasn't sure why he was doing this until we performed the song for the parents one day. Then it all made sense. So if you have a student that you do not want to teach this phrase to, you may want to reconsider reading this book ;)

You can buy Go Away Big Green Monster at my Amazon Affiliate site. They also have a puppet kit at Lakeshore Learning, I have that as well, it's a little more durable than a paper plate :) But the paper plate face is a great activity for those creative kids you have.