A Letter from the CEO: Girls and Autism?
We’ve wanted to do an article about girls and autism for some time now. There is so much to say: under-diagnosis, different presenting characteristics, treatment options… where to start?
We’ve wanted to do an article about girls and autism for some time now. There is so much to say: under-diagnosis, different presenting characteristics, treatment options… where to start?
Our hearts go out to the family and friends of George Floyd and to the many other people of color who have been subjected to the insidious racism that continues to plague our country.
Given current circumstances you may be faced with the unexpected challenge of educating and engaging your child with autism or other special needs at home. With so much in flux, we want to offer free lessons, materials, activity sheets, data tracking sheets, behavior management tools, and a basic overview of how to use the system at home with your children.
I truly hope that the downloadable Language Builder ARIS lessons have been helpful as you endeavor to set up your child's at-home education program. It has become crystal clear to us over the past several days that there is a dire need for resources to support parents as they adapt to recent school closures. We are committed to providing digital resources and virtual assistance to get you though this tough period so that your child can continue learning and building new skills.
For the free lessons we provided in our ARIS Emergency Home Autism Education Program we have included a variety of photo cards that you can download, print and get started with, including: Nouns, Occupations, Emotions, Sequencing and Verbs. You can see that many lessons reference specific Stages products, which you may not have access to. This information is designed to help you source some of these materials yourself so you can expand the content you teach in each lesson.
Growing up just outside of Paradise – Paradise, California that is – we always knew that wildfire season was a natural part of the landscape. But even with that knowledge, no one ever expected that the most devastating wildfire in California’s history would end up coming to Paradise.
This article was originally written in English and has been translated into Chinese.
In 2016, three students from the Harvard Graduate School of Education approached us about internships. They were interested in autism in their home countries: China and Pakistan. All three had personal connections to someone with autism and wanted to help them, their families and their communities. They were also aware that in Pakistan and China autism is frequently kept out of view: children with autism are kept at home, only rarely attend schools, and often have not even received an official diagnosis.
El desarrollo del lenguaje es diferente para cada niño, y hay muchas diferencias en el desarrollo “normal” de los niños pequeños. Si tiene preocupaciones específicas sobre la velocidad de aprendizaje de las primeras habilidades de lenguaje de su niño, debe hablar con su doctor.
Many parents of children with autism wonder what will happen when their children grow up – what will their adult lives be like? This is true of all parents, but likely more so for parents of children with autism. And just like neurotypical children, children with autism are each unique and have strengths that help them in life and weaknesses that may sometimes hold them back.
Students will use Language Builder cards with the Language Builder App to practice similar matching in both a digital and physical setting.
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!
On March 10th of this year, Stages Learning Materials released the Language Builder from Stages App, and we have had an amazing response! Hundreds of parents, therapists, and teachers are now using the Language Builder App to teach 6 early ABA activities to children with autism. But we are far from finished adding features to the app!
It is such an honor to have an article about the launch of our new Stages Language Builder App in the Harvard Graduate School of Education News!
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.
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!
These days nearly everyone knows a friend or family member who is touched by autism. Perhaps it’s your own child or your sister’s child. Perhaps it’s the child of your neighbor, your dentist, your mail carrier, or hair dresser.
With the holidays fast approaching, you may be asking yourself: are there any gifts for people on the autism spectrum that are both meaningful and appropriate?
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?
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:
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.
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.
Our first experiences with food have a large effect on our eating habits for the rest of our lives, so the best time to teach good dietary habits is during the early years. Think about some of your best and worst food habits... don't you wish you had started better habits at age 3, rather than trying to change those habits at age (fill in the blank!)?
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.
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:
Resources for Matching Activities
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.
Stages Learning Materials produces 13 flash card sets that are labeled on the reverse in 17 common languages (English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Russian, Chinese simplified, Chinese traditional, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Polish, Filipino, Portuguese, Greek, Thai, Arabic).
I know, I know – you just conquered Facebook so why should you even consider joining yet ANOTHER social media network? Believe it or not, Twitter is more than just a status update community. It is a great way to network and have conversations about topics that interest you. I have laid out five reasons why I think you should join Twitter.
Over approximately the past 2 decades, with the rise in the prevalence of autism, an entire industry has grown up around treating and teaching children and adults with autism, as well as easing the challenges and improving the quality of day-to-day life for individuals on the autism spectrum. Within this growing market, the past 10 to 15 years has seen the adaptation of many new technologies to the particular needs of individuals with autism.
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?
Language development varies from child to child, and there are wide ranges of expected “normal” language development in young children. If you are using Stages Learning Materials products with your own child, and you are concerned about language development, you should definitely discuss this with your health care professional. However, for reference sake, in general:
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.