For children with autism, communication can be a challenging skill to develop. Children with autism often have difficulties with expressive and receptive language, thus impacting their ability to effectively communicate within their environment, ask for what they want and need, argue their point of view, and engage in successful interactions1. Expressive language development is key for children with autism, as support in this area allows them to use words, gestures, sentences, and writing to express meaning and give messages to others1.
Children with autism frequently have delayed language development. For children with autism who have developed language, understanding or using parts of speech correctly may be difficult. While many children develop language skills incidentally, parts of speech such as prepositions, opposites, pronouns or verb tenses may be more difficult and require explicit instruction. Understanding parts of speech are important because it shows how words relate to one another in a meaningful way and allows for clear communication.
Teaching children with Autism to follow simple directions is an important skill for them to learn. The ability to follow simple directions allows opportunities for your child to gain independence, regulation skills, communication skills, productivity in daily routine tasks, and practice gross motor and fine motor skills. Having these skills are important in school environments, home, and other natural settings. Children can gain the ability to follow simple directions to:
Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and whole child development, often used synonymously, have huge implications for children of all ages. Described as the process of developing the knowledge, mindsets, and behaviors needed to manage and express emotions, interact positively with others, make responsible decisions, and set and achieve goals, SEL has become one of the primary topics of discussion in education. Policymakers and practitioners increasingly recognize SEL as an essential, though often lacking, component of formal schooling. As interest in SEL expands, new research clarifies our understanding of students’ social and emotional development and its connection to academic learning.
ARIS was created with access and implementation in mind: intended to make the principles of ABA easily accessible and easy to implement for educators working with children with autism who may not have formal ABA training.
Recent research has highlighted the lack of evidence-based strategies and adequate learning programs for students with autism (Stahmer, et al., 2015). Even when teachers have access to learning programs for their students with autism, many lack consistency and effectiveness in using it. Research indidates that many classrooms vary greatly in their implementation of evidence-based practices and various learning curricula, but teachers are more likely to use instructional tools that are highly structured and when they feel supported by ongoing training for those tools (Stahmer, et al., 2015).
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.
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.
This lesson plan gives the classic card game Go Fish an emotional makeover! Students work on their expressive and receptive vocabulary and understanding of the five basic emotions, all while practicing social skills, taking turns, and following the rules of the game.
All over the news, we see stories about kids with autism and their iPads. Rookie reporters tout the devices as The Next Big Thing, even going so far as to refer to them as cures. I’m sure we would all agree that the touch screen tablets are amazing, for little and big kids alike. But where’s the research backing their use for educational purposes for our students? In one word, nonexistent. As a doctoral student at Montreal’s McGill University, I aim to change that.
The focus of my upcoming thesis is on developing a rigorous and research-based understanding of using iPads to teach children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). I have been extremely fortunate to meet with the Stages Learning Materials staff, and receive their support to use the Language Builder Picture Cards and the newly created Language Builder from Stages app to test which method results in better and faster learning of receptive and expressive language.
Additional Activities to Develop Sentence Skills
Labeling and Requesting are the most basic of all full sentence activities, and provide a basis for your student to understand that communication requires more than single word utterances. The following list of activities offers just a few examples of the many lessons you can use to help build full sentences and a more complete system of communication with your child.
Wouldn't it be great if we all got the right answers on the first try? I don't know about you, but when I try something for the first time, I often need a little help! Why should we expect anything different from our students when we teach them a new skill?
The most popular use of the Language Builder Picture Card Series is to build vocabulary. The realistic and current photos help students to learn the name of various nouns, occupations, and emotions. In the beginning, this task can be very repetitive and basic, focusing only on learning single-word responses. When a child with autism begins to gain expressive language skills, parents and educators are thrilled to watch how the child moves from basic vocabulary to building sentences.
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!
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?
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.
A growing trend in Early Childhood Education is the focus on using materials with real photo images rather than illustrations.
Teaching ideologies such as Montessori have long understood the importance of focusing on fact rather than fiction in the materials used for teaching young children. The closer the educational experiences are to real life, the easier it is for children to make the links and connections to their real world experiences, and to recognize and transfer the learning value when they later encounter the real thing in nature.
Classroom Bingo is a fun teaching tool for use at home or in the classroom. With Stages’ Picture Recognition Bingo kids won’t even know that they’re learning as they listen intently to match the beautiful photographs on their player’s card with the corresponding words spoken by the instructor!
Iconicity refers to the degree of resemblance between a picture and the object that it depicts. A cartoon image, for example, would have a low degree of iconicity, while a photograph would have a higher degree of iconicity.
Just using realistic pictures to interact with and teach children is not enough. The key is in the specific ways that you use the pictures to build vocabulary, communication, literacy and critical thinking skills. The following chapters will introduce many techniques and teaching ideas across broad instructional categories, but one thing is clear: interaction is paramount. Active strategies that engage children and encourage them to participate in discussion about the picture are much better than just offering up passive descriptions.
When very young children first begin to learn language skills, they learn new words by hearing the spoken word tied to the actual object (Richards & Goldfarb, 1986). For example, if parents repeat the word car every time they take their child to the car, the child will quickly learn that the word car represents the real car.