It’s a couple months into the school year. The kids in your class know where to put unsharpened pencils, how to ask to go to the bathroom, and what to expect day to day. You have a strong sense of each child’s personality, strengths, and weaknesses. And you’ve noticed which students are not flourishing in the typical classroom structure and need specialized attention. But what do you do if you suspect your student has autism, and they don’t have an IEP?
Whether you’re shopping for Christmas, Hanukkah, or any other holiday, finding the “perfect” gift for a child with autism can be hard, given the range of sensitivities and needs a child may have. Because autism spectrum disorder (ASD) includes a wide list of symptoms and affects each child differently, it may be best to ask the child’s parents or guardians for some guidance. Avoid gifts with surprising sensory inputs like moving robots, toys with swirling lights, or toys with strong scents without consulting the child’s parents. Consider asking about the child’s sensory needs, as that can guide the types of sensory toys you can gift. Are there any triggers you should be aware of? Any sensory inputs the child particularly enjoys? Also, ask about the child’s cognitive and motor skills level, to find a gift the child will love. Finally, don’t forget about the gift of an experience - sometimes, in lieu of a toy, the gift of time together may be the perfect present.
The Academic Readiness Intervention System (ARIS) is a new comprehensive early autism education curriculum based on the Language Builder Picture Cards created over twenty years ago by Stages Learning and widely used in classrooms and therapeutic settings.
What is Autism Awareness Month?
Each year during the month of April, individuals and organizations across the globe celebrate Autism Awareness Month with events to educate local communities and raise public awareness about autism. Almost 50 years have passed since the Autism Society held the first National Autism Awareness month in April of 1970. Since then, autism has become the fastest growing developmental disability in the world, with the diagnosis rate of children with autism increasing from 1 in every 2000 children in the 1970's and 1980's to 1 in every 68 children today.
Affinities, Avatars, and Autism: Oh My!
Learning empathy from Simba. Recognizing emotions with Ariel. It may seem unconventional, but the inspiring story about Owen Suskind, an autistic child depicted in the book and adapted award-winning documentary, Life, Animated, illustrates an innovative therapeutic approach for autism: social and emotional skill building through communication with affinity-based avatars.
Leveraging Special Interests to Help Children with Autism: An Autistic Person* Shares Her Experiences
Having a special interest in something is a major part of the repetitive behavior that comes with autism. In fact, researcher Tony Attwood (2003) found that special interests seem “to be a dominant characteristic, occurring in over 90% of children and adults with Asperger’s syndrome.” Your child, client, or student with autism may have an intense interest in one particular subject. While hearing someone you love go on and on about his or her favorite subject may get tiring, special interests are important. A 2007 study done by Winter-Messiers (2007) reflected that special interests should be treated seriously because they may be beneficial in building up skills that would be hard to obtain otherwise.
This article was originally written in English and has been translated into Chinese.
This article was originally written in English and has been translated into Chinese.
What is bullying?
Stopbullying.gov defines bullying as:
“Unwanted, aggressive behavior among school-aged children. It involves a real or perceived power imbalance and the behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.”
There are three types of bullying: verbal, social, and physical. All three types of bullying can have serious, long-lasting effects on children. Therefore, it is important to teach children the appropriate strategies to deal with a bullying situation should they ever encounter one.
An Autistic Woman Explains Common Autism Characteristics, Misconceptions, and the Neurodiversity Movement
Basics- What is autism?
Autism is a neurological pervasive developmental disorder. That means it is a different way of thinking and growing that affects every part of a person’s life. Autism is diagnosed by looking at the three ‘pillars’ of autism:
- Repetitive behavior
So, let’s take a closer look at these things, from an autistic perspective. (When explaining language and communication I’ve kept my explanations pretty individualized- if you would like to learn more about these categories in general, the National Autistic Society has some great information)
Hi! My name is Catlaina Vrana, and I am the author of "Ella Autie". I started "Ella Autie" as just an assignment for my senior project, but it has led to many great opportunities. Here is a quick summary of Ella Autie:
Our favorite resources around the web
Stages Learning has compiled a selective list of high quality resources and support information for parents, teachers, and families. Please contact us by filling out the form at the bottom of the page if you would like to suggest a resource for us to consider.
Knowing What to Look for with Autism
Have you ever worried that your child is exhibiting symptoms of autism, but had no one to go to and no understanding of how to acquire a diagnosis and ensure that your child will receive the help they need?
Approaching the discussion with your child
Many parents are unsure about how to speak to their child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) about the diagnosis. Parents may fear a number of reactions: that their child will not understand, become angry or depressed, or use ASD as an excuse for why he or she cannot do some things. While some children can find the news upsetting, the information can also come as a relief, as found by a group of researchers that interviewed 9 individuals with high-functioning ASD, aged 16 to 21. Most children reported feeling a sense of shock and disbelief when first informed of the diagnosis, but seemed able to incorporate the idea of “having ASD” into their identity by the time of the interview. Some expressed that learning that they were on the autism spectrum helped them understand why they had experienced various difficulties and had been treated differently. It also provided a reason for their behavior that they thought others might understand (Huws & Jones, 2008).
Guidance on Raising Money for Autism Support
If you are helping raise money for autism research, advocacy, or other programs related to autism, it is wise to follow the advice of Charity Navigator: Your Guide to Intelligent Giving. They recommend, at minimum, that at least 50% of money raised goes toward the actual program, and most types of charities stay upward of the 65 to 75% mark. But for some of the organizations listed below, money raised goes straight to staff and administrative costs because staff are involved in carrying out the mission of the organization, rather than just engaging in raising funds (such as research or lobbying efforts) - or because the organization is complex, has a large administrative structure, and is attempting to achieve many diverse.
For Our Readers: Stages Learning started a new service project in January of 2016: The Global Autism Awareness Project (GAAP). Partnering with students at the Harvard Graduate School of Education we are working to destigmatize autism around the world and provide information to help children receive early diagnoses and find treatment.
Autism Goes to Hollywood: Our Favorite Documentaries, Movies and TV Shows Depicting Characters with Autism
And…action! As there is growing awareness about autism, the media is also increasingly portraying characters with autism and those who are on the spectrum. How autism is portrayed in entertainment can have a significant impact on how our society understands people with autism. While some representations can be stereotypical and misleading, others can be more complex and realistic, showing the diversity and multidimensional humanity of people who are on the spectrum.
What it Means to be Autism Friendly and How You Can Help
An exciting and fast moving effort is under way to create “Autism Friendly” spaces so that children and adults with autism can feel more supported and families can better enjoy visits to the theater, restaurants, and even just going out for ice cream. More businesses are tuning in to ways that they can provide welcoming spaces for individuals with autism: doctors offices, airports, grocery stores, and clothing stores are all finding ways to accommodate sensory needs and provide emotional support for all of their customers.
Finding the Form of Art Therapy That Works Best for Your Child
For more than 70 years, creative arts therapies such as visual art therapy, music therapy, dance therapy, and drama therapy have been used in psychotherapy or counseling with individuals of all ages, particularly children. A credentialed professional who has completed an approved program in a specific creative arts therapy specialization can help build life skills and promote healthy self-expression in children with autism. Often used in conjunction with behavioral treatments and medication, these alternative or complimentary creative arts treatments have a broad range of options available.
Jackson Tillman is in third grade, lives in Kentucky, and has autism. The biggest challenge Jackson’s family has is that when a situation becomes overwhelming Jackson bolts, and when Jackson is with his grandmother she can’t keep up. That’s where Jackson’s buddy Mateo comes in. Mateo is a two-year-old Labradoodle with short curly locks. He is the first autism service dog in Kentucky.
As a grandparent it can be a struggle to find presents for a granddaughter or grandson who has autism. Sometimes traditional gifts can backfire for the child with autism.
Holidays can be a time of great joy and excitement, but they can also be stressful and disruptive. For families who have children with autism, extra planning is essential to keep everyone on an even keel. Managing expectations about what a holiday “should” be like, and minimizing the changes that will occur in your family routine will help reduce stress and avoid meltdowns.
Research[i] confirms what many parents of children with autism already know: children with autism have a higher incidence of sleep challenges, and the more severe the autism symptoms the more severe the sleep challenges. Research,[ii] as well as common sense, also tells us that impaired sleep has a negative impact on physical, emotional, academic, and social functioning.
As a parent our needs are often the first to be postponed or set aside. Sometimes there is no choice: we have to attend to the immediate needs of our children. But in the long run we could be doing significant damage to our physical and emotional health by not attending to our own needs. And if our health and emotional well-being is compromised this is likely to have an impact on how well we are able to care for our children.
Autism – you see it on the news; hear about it from advocacy campaigns like Autism Speaks ; you may know someone whose life is affected by someone with the diagnosis. Undoubtedly, there are students with autism in your local public schools. Simply put, autism is more prevalent than ever, and it is on the rise.
I am happy to report that Stages Learning Materials has finally taken the leap into the 21st century!
The Language Builder cards have become a staple in autism and speech therapy programs across the country, and even abroad. I regularly attend conferences where parents and therapists alike tell me that they use the cards every day at home or in their practice. The other thing I hear at every conference I attend ... "When will the Language Builder Cards be available in a software program I can use on the computer?" That day has finally come!
Building Expressive Vocabulary
This is the step where your child learns to actually say the words out loud. All of the tasks we just described in the previous Autism and Language article come into play when building your child’s expressive vocabulary. Picture cards are a useful tool again, because it just isn’t feasible to bring every object directly to your child. We certainly want them to learn the words bus and airplane, but it’s difficult to get those items into your living room!
Emerging Language and Building Vocabulary
Language development varies from child to child, and there are wide ranges of expected “normal” language development in young children. If you have specific concerns about the pace of your child’s language development, you should definitely discuss this with your health care professional. However, for reference sake, by the age of two a child is expected to be able to:
When you have a child with autism or other special needs, chores are often overlooked or parents don’t consider it a possibility for their child. Just as modifications are needed in the classroom, small modification or supports can be developed to not only make chores a possibility, but part of the daily routine. Find out more about increasing your child's independence with chores at home!
- Telling your child about autism should not be the “Big Talk.” Saying that it's big makes it seem like it's bad. Read more of Brenda Rothman’s article at Huffington Post Education.
Learning to categorize items is a basic task for young children. Close your eyes for a moment and picture a typical pre-school classroom: children are sorting little plastic bears, red bears in one tub, blue in another, and green in a third; another group of children arranges pictures into different piles of animals, vehicles, and foods; and still a third group is reading a book about animals that live in the sea vs. animals that can fly! We instinctively know it is important to sort things into categories… but do we know why?
Parents and educators often struggle to help children with autism communicate their feelings. When children with autism have trouble recognizing and communicating how they feel, it may contribute to inappropriate behaviors such as tantruming and aggression, or even increased social withdrawal. If our kids could tell us how they feel, they would be less frustrated, and we would be better able to help solve their dissatisfaction.
When you first begin your one-on-one intensive teaching program with a child with autism or developmental delay, the environment is very structured. Often one child will sit alone at a table with one teacher or therapist. The teacher and student are just a few feet away from each other, to minimize the outside distraction.
There are so many people our children need to interact with on a weekly basis – teachers, doctors, bus drivers, dentists, janitors, crossing guards, store clerks, mail carriers…. Meeting new people can be difficult for any child, but children with autism often have a particularly difficult time with people they don’t know, or who are not part of their typical routine.
Why Matching Activities for Children with Autism?
Note: These activities are excerpted from the Language Builder® ARIS Full Autism Curriculum developed by Stages Learning Materials.
What does matching teach a child? How can this be a step toward developing language? Matching skills are essential for language development for children with autism.
In ABA therapy matching skills typically follow a hierarchy from the easiest and most accessible matching activities using identical physical objects to the more complex and abstract notion of matching representations of objects, such as those found in specially designed picture cards. As the child advances in matching activities they are able to connect physical objects with cards that represent the objects: A big leap forward in the development of language skill learning! Research demonstrates that using a progression of matching activities using ABA therapy techniques provides children with scaffolding needed to develop language skills.
Stages Learning Materials has created Language Builder® Matching Kits specially designed to foster identical and similar matching activities using objects and cards. The Language Builder® series is used widely by researchers and ABA therapists.
The Hierarchy of Matching Activities
Choose a 3D object to start with. Bowls and Cups, as offered in the Everyday Object Matching Kit are often a good first choice because they “nest,” which is a natural motivator for students to stack them together. Alternatively start with an object that is attractive or motivating to your particular student. If your student tends to engage in wheel-spinning stimulatory behavior, you may not want to start with wheeled vehicles.
Once the student has mastered matching one object, you can then move through the list of identical objects to match. As the student becomes more competent matching identical objects in a field of one, you can then add more objects to the field so the student will have to scan the objects before matching.
Choose a 3D object to start with. The Language Builder® 3D - 2D Matching Kits, such as the Food or Animal kits, are perfect for this matching activity. Start with an object that is attractive or motivating to your particular student. It is a good idea to choose an object with which your student has had significant success matching in the 3D - 3D matching activity.
Once the student has mastered matching one object to the corresponding photo card, you can then move through the list of identical objects to match. As the student becomes more competent matching object to card in a field of one, you can then add more objects to the field so the student will have to scan the objects before matching. There are additional lessons designed for 3D - 2D matching at the end of this article.
Choose a card from the Language Builder® Picture Nouns set to start. Begin with a card that has an image that is attractive or motivating to your particular student. It is a good idea to choose an object with which your student has had significant success matching in the 3D - 3D, and 2D - 3D matching activities.
Once the student has mastered matching one photo card to the corresponding photo card, you can then ask the student to match other identical pictures. As the student becomes more competent matching card to card in a field of one, you can then add more cards to the field so the student will have to scan the cards before matching.
Choose a card from the Language Builder® Picture Nouns set to start. Begin with a card that has an image that is attractive or motivating to your particular student. It is a good idea to choose an object with which your student has had significant success with in previous matching activities.
Once the student has mastered matching one photo card to the corresponding similar photo card, you can then ask the student to match other similar pictures. As the student becomes more competent matching card to card in a field of one, you can then add more cards to the field so the student will have to scan the cards before matching
Research on Matching: 3D - 2D is Essential
Basic matching is one of the first lessons taught in an Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) program for children with autism. Teaching early language skills to children with autism often begins with having children match identical objects. Before a child can learn that the picture of an object actually represents a real item (picture-object correspondence), the child may need to start learning by matching actual physical objects. It is often necessary to start by matching 3D objects such as cups or toy cars and later transition to matching identical images on cards (Blumberg & Hurley, 2007).
Teaching daily living skills to children with autism often depends on using activity schedules and sequencing charts. These tools are effective only at the point at which children have mastered the prerequisite skills of matching a 2D image to a 3D object (Haas, 2011). Until a child has the capacity to understand that a 2D image such as a picture of a toothbrush represents an actual object, being able to prompt a child to engage in brushing their teeth cannot be accomplished using an activity schedule or card. Some children will eventually be able to move from seeing an actual toothbrush, to recognizing a card that has a photographic image of a toothbrush, to recognizing the word “toothbrush.” Other children with more severe language delays will only be able to respond to 3D prompts (Baynham, 2007).
The Research Connection Between Matching Activities and Language Development
In a study using different types of photographs, symbols, and objects to teach language skills to 40 non-verbal subjects with autism the real objects proved to be much more readily recognized than any of the other representations of objects (Mirenda & Locke, 1989).
Typically developing infants and children under the age of three also learn from viewing 3D objects and often cannot process a 2D picture of an object until a later age. Researchers testing 5-month-old infants found that these infants could not understand 2-D images, but when presented with the same content in 3D representations infants were able to understand the objects. The researchers found that by examining 3D objects children naturally learn about objects in their world and that being able to examine a 3D object provides additional sensory information rather than just viewing a 2D image on a card (Mash & Boornstein, 2012).
The following are resources that can help support basic matching activities to promote language development:
- Mastering Matching 3D - 2D
- Storytelling and Recall with Animals (3D - 2D Matching)
- Using Identical Matching to Teach Beginning Language Skills to Children with Autism
Resources for Matching Activities
- LB6 Language Builder®: Blocks
- LB7 Language Builder®: 3D-2D Matching Kit: Foods
- LB8 Language Builder®: 3D-2D Matching Kit: Animals
- LB9 Language Builder®: 3D-2D Matching Kit: Everyday Objects
- LB10 Language Builder®: 3D-2D Matching Kit: Vehicles
Stages also offers 10 Memory Card Games that teach matching skills
References to Research on Matching and Language Development
Baynham, Tanya Yvonne. (2007). Training a non-match response: Toward a technology for determining controlling stimulus dimensions for two children with autism. University of North Texas, Dissertation. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing.
Blumberg, E.R. & Hurley, E. (2007). Enhancing Early Intervention for Parents of Young Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Information, Strategies, & Resources. New Brunswick, NJ: The Elizabeth M. Boggs Center on Developmental Disabilities.
Haas, Stephanie Iwanciow. (2011). “Teaching daily living skills to young adults with autism: the creation of a curriculum guide for special education teachers.” California State University: M.A. Thesis. Available: http://digitalcommons.csumb.edu/caps_thes/426
Mash, C., & Bornstein, M. H. (2012). 5-month-olds’ categorization of novel objects: Task and measure dependence. Infancy, 17, 179-197.
Mirenda, P., & Locke, P. (1989). A comparison of symbol transparency in nonspeaking persons with intellectual disabilities. Journal of Speech and Hearing Disorders, 54, 131-140.
New routine, new teachers, new classrooms…. New, new, new! This can be stressful for all children, but even more so for children with autism and other special needs. What can you do to minimize stress and maximize success in the new school year? Here are some ABC’s to ensure back to school success.
A common challenge for children and adults with autism is their ability to communicate. Many a parent and therapist will tell you that Picture Cards are one of the best tools to aid in communication with individuals with autism, whether the individual is verbal or non verbal.
We all know how difficult it can be to facilitate healthy interactions between children on the autism spectrum and their typically developing peers. The stereotypic “stimming” behaviors that are often present in children with autism, combined with a lack of appropriate social behaviors, tend to alienate other children and reduce the opportunities for peer interaction. Healthy social relationships are critical for early development, so it is extremely important to build some skills in children with autism that will help them relate to and interact with other children.
Rise in Autism Diagnosis
20 years ago most people had never heard the term autism, much less met anyone who had a child with autism. Today the Center for Disease Control estimates that rates of autism are as high as 1 in 88 children, and 1 in 54 boys (Center for Disease Control, 2008). Autism is the fastest growing developmental disability, with a growth rate of approximately 1,148% (Cavagnaro, 2007). Recent news stories report that number as high as 1 in 68 children. So, what is autism?