Friday, February 25, 2011

Spring is in the Air

Today started out cloudy and windy.  The forecast included a tornado watch.  Late afternoon grew dark just before the cloudburst.  Then the skies became a clear blue with the sunshine streaming through.  Ah, Spring is well on its way!  My thoughts were, "Let it rain!"  I could almost envision the rain rejuvenating the grass and plants outside.  The advent of Spring is revealing all kinds of treasures around our new home at the Speech House.  A few weeks ago, masses of Papewhites appeared, now the daffodils are beginning to bloom, and I am pretty sure I have spied at least two dozen Amaryllis (at least, I think that is what those strong flat leaves poking up out of the soil will become).  I stopped by Lowe's and picked up a few tulips to add to the bed under the tulip tree.  No wonder my thoughts of lesson plans are turning to Springtime themes. I perused my Spring Books to try to decide what to use this year with my clients. There are so many fun themes to choose from.

Gardening Themes:  Spring is a time of renewal for all things green, is a great time to discuss plants and growth cycles.  One of the things that can be done is to plant a garden (My First Garden):  Now that we are in our Speech House, I am seriously considering making a full fledged "mini" garden.  I have already been asked, "And why would you want to do that?" (translation: "Wouldn't that be a lot of extra work you already don't have time for?" To which the answer would be, "yes!")  It seems like a fun idea and a good excuse to take some therapy sessions outdoors. Although I am unsure if I will tackle this project this year, here are some of my thoughts on goals and objectives:

1.  Sensory:  sunshine, dirt, water, smells, and after things grow, taste and texture (feeding issues).   The kids could get dirty scratching around the soil, planting seeds, watering them, and eating the product of their labor. 
2. Vocabulary:  Plenty of opportunities to learn new words from pre-k to teens:  parts of plants, fruits, vegetables, gardening tools, science from germination to photosynthesis, weather, ...
3.  Language & Verbal Expression: My philosopy is that experiential learning is the best kind:  Requesting, discussing, describing, instructing, sequencing.... Use children's literature for whole language learning experiences.

Of course, there are other fun plant activities that do not require making your own garden (easier too):
  • Planting seeds in a cup and watching them grow.
  • Using an egg carton and planting grass seed into an eggshell (combines Spring and Easter).  Crack the top 1/4 to 1/3 off of an egg, remove egg, fill with soil, plant seed, draw on a face, the seed grow to be "hair" and the kids can then give it a haircut.
  • Place a wet napkin or paper towel in a plastic baggie.  Drop in a bean.  Tape to a sunny window.  As the bean sprouts, the clear bag allows the forming of roots and shoots to be observed.  Dampen the paper towel as needed.  Can transplant to a cup or pot later.
Other plant themed activies:
  • Make a picture with various seeds/beans.
  • Make flowers with construction paper or tissue paper:  create a construction paper flower or vegetable garden on one wall of the room.
  • Make prints with cut up potatoes, apples, etc.
 Many thanks to for finding these virtual links:
Literature Links:  Check out these book links to find plenty of resources for fun lessons and activities.

The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle
Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! by Candace Fleming
Mortimer's First Garden by Karma Wilson
Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert
Dandelion Adventures by Patricia Kite

Weather:  Little Cloud by Eric Carle:  This is a great unit for this time of year when weather is changing dramatically from cold to warmer, from windy and rain to bluer skies and fair weather, making cloud watching an interesting experience.  Summertime is also a good time to use this book when there are warm lazy days, although where I live it gets really hot very quickly and the bright summer sun can make cloud watching more difficult (sun shades required).  There are some wonderful links to this unit on my Facebook page.  I have bookmarked a number of online sites with great photos of clouds so the children can work on stretching their imaginations to see cloud shapes.  This is particulary good for the child on the Autism spectrum or who tends to be a more concrete thinker.  There is also one resource that actually fills in line drawing around a cloud shape when scrolled over to assist those who simply cannot perform this task.  I borrowed from that idea by printing out several awesome cloud shapes, inserted them in clear plastic page protector, and outlined the shape with a sharpie marker.  I show the picture to the child and give him the opportunity to figure it out on his own.  If he cannot, I place the sleeve over the photo to assist him.  Lots of fun. The most interesting effect is that once the cloud is shown in outline, you can remove the line drawing and the brain recognizes the image on its own. 

Once I cut large cloud shapes out of poster board and glued batting over them and hung them around the office.  This way the kids could play the cloud shapes game while waiting for their session.  Another related ativity is on one of the Caillou computer games which has a cloud shapes game on the disk. 

Craft activties abound:
Tear out shapes from white paper and glue to a blue backround.
Paint white clouds on blue.  Can even inkblot them by folding the paper.
Cotton ball or batting clouds.
Sponge painted clouds
Clouds with raindrops dangling down
Eric Carle inspired:  Paint some paper with a mixture of color and texture and cut our cloud shapes.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert
Watch Me Grow Butterfly a DK book
Are You My Mother?  by P.D. Eastman
Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood
Old Bear by Kevin Henkes

The quintessential bug of Spring is the caterpillar!  So many great books and lessons about caterpillars and butterflies.  There are TONS of online crafts and activities; you only have to Google a few moments to glean more than enough.  Click my book link for a few I found.  Likewise, the butterfly books abound.  Choose your favorites.  One great activity is to get one of those butterfly net/hatcheries and order some painted lady butterflies.  So great to watch them grow and become butterflies.

Baby birds, baby animals.... Spring is the time of newborns! Any baby animal books are sure to be a hit.

Crickets and other bugs:  These can go with Spring or with Summer.  On second thought, I might save crickets for the lazy summer nights.

If you like this blog, check back as I will be adding more Spring ideas as I come upon them.  Instead of writing a lot of blogs, I like to compile resources as much as possible.  It helps me find things when I need them!

Monday, February 14, 2011

I Like FREE Apps :)

See my Free apps file on Facebook.  Check back periodically as I will add things as I find them.   Feel free to recommend your own faves. 

Be sure to note my Disclaimer:  I am not a techie.  I am a newbie to iphone.  These are just a few items I found that add a bit of fun to therapy or just seemed too "cool" to pass up. 

I often download free apps just because they are free.  If I like them, I keep them, if not I delete them.  These a few of my "keepers".

I prefer "hands on" multisensory activities, however, I have found that for the therapist who travels to clients (I have one school contract), having resources compactly stored on my iphone really lightens my load.  There are also a few of our kiddo who are truly enamored by all things techie.  These apps are highly motivating tools for them.

One app that I actually bought was pocket SLP and it is nice to have a quick deck of flashcards with multiple sounds.  I would love for some computer savvy person out there to come up with an articulation/phonology app that allows us to pick and choose our word lists for individual clients.  Many of the words are too long for a new pre-k client.  Also, I like to present word lists taking co-articulation targets into account.  Just putting that out there for some budding "app maker".
Click her for link to my list of  Apps (free, or minimal cost, or if they are pricey it is because they are recommended for a specific purpose).

Update (3-8-11):  Follow this link to a blog called Pathologically Speaking about a useful way to load pictures onto your iphone or ipod with Drop Box.  Looks very interesting; can't wait to try it.

Update (4-25-11): Here is a great site for app recommendations by people with tech knowledge.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

(Play video while reading the post,  helps set the tone!) 
Revised to include two sets of verses:

All kinds of stickers that sparkle and glow
Bright shiny bubbles and marbles that roll
Blow toys and whistles making loud rings
These are few of my favorite things.

Golden crispy crackers and small sour candy
Check marks and smilies and tokens are handy
A box of some treasures with lots of bling
These a few of my favorite things.

Little smiling faces and tussled up hair
Boys all scruffy, girls so cute in dresses they wear
All proud with high fives as "Hooray" we sing!
These are a few of my favorite things

When the kids cry
When they won't try
When we're feeling sad,
I simply remember our favorite things

And then we don't feel so bad!

Shiny page protectors to cover my worksheet
Colorful Highlighters and fun papers that meet
Red magnetic wand and chips with bright metal rings
These are a few of my favorite things

Small plastic toys for adding fun to our day
Weighted blankets, squishy balls, and sensory play
Cheerful picture choices in binders with rings
These are a few of my favorite things.

Dolls in dollhouses and blocks needed to stack
Hot wheels to gather and roll on a track
Jokes and riddles and song to sing
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the kids cry
When they won't try
When we're feeling sad,
I simply remember our favorite things
 And then we don't feel so bad!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Social Group Stories: A "Wallace & Gromit" Skit Making Experience

I have only recently embarked on my adventures in holding social skills groups.  I mainly use the Social Thinking material developed by Michelle Garcia Winner (MGW... because I am too lazy to type it over and over).  She suggests "Wallace & Gromit" programs to help teach a number of the key ideas for thinking with our eyes, what's my plan/intentions, perspective/point of view.  She also suggests video taping and group projects to emphasize learning to work together.  So about three months into my work with one particular group of boys, I decided "why not combine all of that into one scenario".  The result was an interesting experience for all of us. 

This group of teenage boys ranges from 12-15 years old.  They have various diagnoses including Aspergers, FAS, ADHD, and non-specific developmental disorders.  Some are too talkative while others need lots of prodding to speak up.  All of them enjoy video games and movies.  We have had a number of discussions about Star Wars and Narnia.  The basic scenario of most kids like this is that look essentially neurotypical (average) but they do not view or process the social world the way most do.  For neurotypical people social skills develop naturally.  We don't have to think very hard about how to interact, it just happens, it is intuitive for us.  There are varying degrees of social development among neurotypicals with some of us more socially savvy than others, however we all function relatively well.  For kids with SPD, Social Pragmatic Disorders,(ASD, ADHD, LD, FAS, NVLD....), their lack of social understanding creates a significant problem for them.  They don't look disabled, SPD, so no one is patient or understanding with their mis-steps (not saying they should not be expected to follow rules, just that they need more clarification of the rules and more teaching & guidance).  So these are the kids who get into trouble all of the time in school for talking out, for getting into conflicts with others because they misunderstand the situations, other kids ostracize them because they seem "weird"... this happens everywhere including school, youth groups, scouts, small groups,etc.  These kids are generally cognitively typical: smart kids.  They know they are being ignored or singled out.  They get frustrated, angry, depressed, give up....  These kids are perfect candidates for Social Thinking programming.  Many social groups only script behaviors and role play.  This curriculum delves into why the child misses the cues and helps teach them the basics that most of us develop as toddlers:  using our eyes to read a situation, understanding the perspective of other people, and thinking about the environment and the communication partner.

So, one day we watched "Wallace & Gromit and the Wrong Trousers" as suggested in Social Thinking by MGW.  They really enjoyed discovering these characters.  Next we completed some worksheets I made up that were mini character studies of the three main characters: 
1.  Physicial:  How he looks:
       - bold, big ears, neatly dressed with a tie,
2.  Emotional/Mental: How does the character often "feel"/ his emotional or mental state of being:
       - intelligent/inventor, creative, jolly, trusting/naive, socially unaware/not really thoughtful of Gromit
         with the birthday present:  Social Perspective Impaired to some degree.
3.  Behavioral:  Mannerisms, facial expressions, etc.:
       - Often seemed surprised, depends a lot on Gromit for help
4.  Communication:  How does he communicate? List some phrases or gestures he often uses:
       -  Obviously speaks with a British accent, Lots of surprised phrases:  "O, My!",  "GROMIT!"
1. Physicial: How he looks:
     -Yellow Dog, big floppy ears, big head, wears a collar, big eyes
2. Emotional/Mental: How does the character often "feel"/ his emotional or mental state of being:
      - smart, observant, helpful, trustworthy, protective:  Great Social Perspective Taker
3. Behavioral: Mannerisms, facial expressions, etc:
      -Does human jobs (makes breafast), walks on two legs often, takes control of situations,
        keeps Wallace out of trouble
4. Communication: How does he communicate? List some phrases or gestures he often uses:
     -Does not talk, uses gestures, lots of facial expression involving eyes and eyebrows.

The boys expressed a good understanding of the character qualities and discussed how those qualities affected their perspectives of Penguin.

Then I suggested we create our own video based on the characters.  Here are the steps we followed
(mostly by trial and error) along with the lessons we learned along the way:

1.  Brainstorm ideas:  We decided on "Wallace and Gromit discover a Caveman".   This got the creative juices flowing and showed me some of the creativity or lack thereof (those who simply stated things from other cartoons, etc.) among the group.  We then narrowed down the ideas to 3, then 2, then 1.  This process required that all 3 agree rather than "majority rule".  This meant they had to learn to negotiate and compromise to arrive at mutual agreement.

2.  Brainstorm what might happen if a caveman came to life.   Once again, creativity.  But also perspective taking:  How would a caveman feel?  What do we know about cavemen?  Would this world be the same as the one he came from?  How would he react?  What might he think about....?
Added a character study of a caveman: 
A.Physicial: How he looks:
     - Caveman-like:  hairy, dirty, barefoot, animal hide clothes, carried a club.
B. Emotional/Mental: How does the character often "feel"/ his emotional or mental state of being:   
     - Not so smart, confused, easily distracted, clumsy, aggressive, destructive, hungry.
C. Behavioral: Mannerisms, facial expressions, etc:
     -  walks awkwardly, bumps into things, ape-like: swings arms and hunched over walking
D. Communication: How does he communicate? List some phrases or gestures he often uses:
     - grunt, jabber, pointing, banging with club.

3.  Choose 4 ideas and discuss the general plot for the story.  Compromise & negotiate as a group to have mutual agreement. 

4.  Break the plot into four segments and assign each boy a scene: Some degree of negotiation when two boys wanted the same scenes.
     a.  W & G are digging a garden.  They dig too deep and discover a frozen caveman.  They drag him inside to their kitchen where Gromit accidentally knocks over salt onto the caveman as they are leaving to run an errand. 
     b. The warm kitchen and salt thaw out the caveman who awakens and explores this modern era home.  W & G return to find an anxious caveman who crashes things with his club. 
     c. The caveman runs away into the town and gets into trouble at a bakery when he sees a cake through the window and cannot figure out why he cannot touch it... until he finally crashes the window.
     d. He then steals a limousine and tries to drive it but accidentally backs into a zoo crashing through the wall and allowing animals to escape the zoo.
     e.  Captions and epilogue were written by me (Wallace, an inventor, invented a device to make the caveman smart and educated. The cavemen became a curator in the local natural history museum. However, his penchant for clubbing things when he became excited still surfaced at times, but now he just uses a rolled up newspaper).

5.  The boys then were in charge of writing out their scenes.  Since some of the boys have significant difficulties in written language, this step was not detailed.  They were simply to elaborate on the general idea of the scene taking into consideration what we knew about the characters.  This activity addressed language skills, written expression skills, perspective taking (view points, some dialogue, and actions of the characters based on our character analysis).

6.  We gathered some minimal props:  Tie for Wallace, Cap with Dog Ears for Gromit, a Dreadlocks wig for Caveman along with a rolled up foam sheet for the club.  Just fun; okay, maybe also some observation of physical characteristics).

7.  Each boy had the opportunity to "direct" the other boys in the scene he had written.  Each boy had a turn to play each character rotating from scene to scene.  This was probably one of the best perspective taking experiences. Since each boy got to be the "director" and the "actor" in various scenes, he learned the importance of giving adequate amounts of information, cooperation, and following directions.  Since they played each character, each boy had a chance to take on three different personas and three different perspectives.

8.  I filmed, edited, captioned, and copied to DVD's.  This was no award winning production so lots of editing (not great editing at that, since this therapist is technologically challenged), some well placed captioning to fill in for insufficient dialog, and epilogue to wrap up the story

9.  We had a group viewing and invited the parents and siblings in to watch.  Each boy took home a copy of the DVD.

The entire process took about 4 sessions with the boys working on their written scripts at home.  As is to be expected, scripts were forgotten, lost, etc.  But the boys had at least spent time thinking about them so I had them dictate their ideas to me and quickly wrote them down.  The scripts were simple; perhaps a paragraph long.  Much of the dialogue development happened during direction and filming.  All in all it was both fun and productive.  In a few months we will do another one.  It should be interesting to see how their cooperative and perspective skills change a few months into Social Group training.