Lesson and activity visual instructions – teaching resources for children with autism

During my subject, class or group lessons I will give each child a visual step by step instruction resource that me and my teaching assistants will have made using a symbol computer program (My school uses ‘Communicate In Print’) I print the symbol resources I’ve made and then laminate them.

The instructions give the children a visual step by step guide to the activity. This gives the children a visual structure to the lesson where the beginning and ending is clear. Visual step by step guides promote independence as the children are able to see the steps first and are not completely relying on a verbal instruction from an adult. More able children who can read are able to follow visual instructions with increasing independence as they read each step before undertaking the task.

Here is an example of a booklet for children who understand symbols but are not yet reading and possibly have a short attention span (hence no more than 2 symbols per age).

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

large symbol visual instruction

The large symbols are easy to see and focus on for a child with a short attention span. Only 1 symbol per page allows the child to focus only on that symbol instruction rather than seeing multiple instructions on 1 page. Before beginning each step of the task we will look at the symbol, point to the symbol and then say and sign the symbol. When the step is complete, I will say “…….  has finished” and the children will then move a red square onto  the box next to the symbol to highlight that step has finished. (See photos above – when a child puts a red square next to the symbol, this means the step has finished). This routine can be taught using physical and verbal prompts initially before reducing them as the child becomes more familiar and confident with the routine.

For the children who are more able and perhaps recognise a few words, the following visual instructions would be more suitable for the same activity. As the child becomes more able to read and understand text, these instructions can simply be written bullet points.

Visual instructions

The next instructions follow the SCERTS model (http://www.scerts.com/) for visual in-task schedules. The steps to be undertaken are on the green side and when the step is finished, the child moves it to the red side. These instructions show a clear beginning and end to the activity. I make these instructions for the children in my class that recognise some words or can read. After completing a step I ask the children “whats next?” and they read the next step on the green side. I will then model the task for the children so they can see how to do it before they begin the task. As you can see I have differentiated the 2 boards below for children at different levels by using a maximum of 2 symbols per instruction on one and much more detailed text on the other.

SCERTS in task schedule

 

For parents and schools without a symbol program, resources like this can be made with photos and images found simply on the internet (searching a word on google images will bring up a large selection of related images!). You don’t even need to have access to a computer or the internet, just simply drawing a picture will be just as good. The instructions above could just be simple drawings of first a pizza, tomato sauce, cheese, the toppings and the oven down the side of a page!

Please post any questions below.

Days of the week board: learning the days of the week

A visual days of the week board can be great for children with autism to learn the days of the week, the differences that happen on each day and how many days left there are until the end of the week. Here is an example of a days of the week board I show the children at the beginning of every day and I ask the question “what day is it today?”.

days of the week

 

I then say a child’s name and they give me the day of the week that it is today. The day is then put at the top of our morning registration board. After each day is finished, I do not put that day back on the board so it shows the children a visual count down of how many days are left in the week such as on Thursday the only days showing on the board will be Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The subject symbols next to each day show the children an activity that is happening that day that does not happen on the other days such as dance on a Monday.

The days of the week board is also useful to prepare the children for a change in the routine. For example, last week we were not going to go swimming on Friday as we were going to a dance festival. At the beginning of the week I changed the symbol next to Friday to dance festival and also put a red cross over another swimming symbol to show no swimming on Friday. When I showed the morning board to the children on the Monday morning, it was clear that many of them understood that there was no swimming on Friday. Two children were able to say “no swimming”, 1 non verbal child spontaneously walked over to the board and pointed to ‘no swimming’ and 1 child screamed (his favourite activity is swimming!).

 

Visual register board for children with autism

This is the register board I use with my class of children with autism at the beginning and the end of every day. First thing in the morning, the class sit as a group in a semi circle and sing a ‘good morning’ song to each child (the same song every day to keep the routine familiar). After singing to each child, the child walks to the register board and moves their photo or name from the home section to the school section. Once we have sung to every child who is in school, I then choose a child to count “how many children?”. The child counts how many children (with or without support) and chooses the amount from a number board which I then show to each child and it is put below the school section as seen in the photo.

registration board

At the end of the day, we sing a ‘time to go home’ song and then each child takes it in turn to move their name or photo from the school section to the home section. This enables the children to know that it is now time to go home. This is a good familiar routine for the children which can be easily learnt and also a great visual for everyone to see who is in school that day.

Free iPad apps I am using in the classroom

I currently have 1 iPad for my class of autistic children and I use it for 1 to 1 and group sessions. IPads are extremely motivating and rewarding for any child and the learning opportunities are endless. Here are some of the iPad apps me and my class love to use.

 

POCKET POND

Pocket Pond

by TriggerWave LLC

“Create relaxing ripples while you enjoy the sounds of nature. Interact with the fish – scare them, feed them, and watch their schooling behaviour”.

Pocket pond is a great cause and effect app which is a favourite of most of the children in my class. When the screen is touched the pond ripples and the fish swim away. The lifelike sound effects make it feel like a real pond.

 

GRID PLAYER

Grid Player

by Sensory Software International

Grid player is an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app which uses widget symbols and speech. The symbols can be pressed to create a sentence. All of the children in my class are using the Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS) and I am currently using this app with 1 of my pupils who is at a more advanced stage of PECS and has a large vocabulary. As I have not been using this app for that long, I feel I am yet to use it to its full potential. Grid Player can be used with different grid sets and there are over 12,000 widget symbols. I would definitely recommend parents, teachers and speech and language therapists to download and explore the communication opportunities of this app.

 

ILOVEFIREWORKS LITE 

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 18.54.22

by Fireworks Games

Ilovefireworks is another great cause and effect app where you can create fireworks displays by pressing the screen. With 3d graphics and real sounds, this is another favourite of the children in my class!

MYCHOICEPAD MEMORY

photo

By My Insane Logic Ltd.

“A simple, fun and engaging way to aid language development and learn Makaton.”

The MyChociePad Memory game is a simple matching pairs game using Makaton symbols. Once a pair of symbols have been matched, a short video clip of  the Makaton sign is shown for the child to practice. This is great for practicing and learning new signs. There are 3 different game levels so 4, 6 or 8 tiles can be chosen. Core vocabulary symbols and signs come with the free edition of the game and over 100 signs and symbols can be purchased for £4.99 in the full edition. This app will be great for parents and teachers to learn signs as well.

Another favourite iPad app used in our classroom is Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box (£1.49). I wrote a full review here

What are your favourite apps? Let me know in the comments section below.

 

My singing choice board

I do a singing session at the end of every day with my class of children with autism. Previously the children were taking turns to choose from a choice of song symbols and now I have moved them on to choosing whether to ‘watch’ an interactive version of the song on the interactive  whiteboard or ‘sing’ the song. The verb is colour coded yellow and the song is green to help the children place the symbols in the correct order.

What resources do you use for choice making for singing or other activities?

Sand timers for children with autism

I cannot stress enough how valuable sand timers are for children with autism and teachers, parents and any one else working with children with autism. Sand timers clearly provide a visual aid and count down to the end of an activity and can be used in daily routines and during lessons. Sand timers can be used in any setting including at home. They can also help children to develop an understanding of time. I always use a sand timer to show when an activity is coming to an end followed with a verbal countdown from 5.

Visual timetables for children with autism

Visual timetables aid transitions by enabling children with autism to understand what they will be doing next or where they will be going. Visual timetables enable children to be independent and can motivate children by making it clear what will be happening in the day.

The child removes the next symbol from the timetable and travels with it to a board by the next transition point (i.e the classroom door, next too or on the classroom table or another room) and matches it to a corresponding bigger symbol. A finished box or pouch can also be used. The photo below shows a big symbol for dance and toilet which is on the door leading to the dance hall and the toilet. The big symbols are changed before prior to the children making the transition.

big symbol transition

The different coloured timetables making it clear to the child which timetable is theirs. The children using the timetables above are working at a symbol level. Timetables can be made up of objects of reference, photos, symbols or words for children who can read and have a good understanding of text. Travelling timetables can be made on clipboards for photos and symbols and wipe boards for written timetables.

Poisson Rouge, a great online learning resource

If you’re not aware of Poisson Rouge, I recommend you have a look at it now! Developed by a team of linguists, graphic artists, musicians and educational psychologists, Poisson Rouge is an amazing free interactive children’s website full of activities and games and autistic children will love it!

The great thing is there is no text or instructions and the screen is easy to navigate. There are lots of great activities which can develop hand-eye coordination, mouse skills, number skills, reading skills, music, different languages, colour and so much more! All of the children I have taught across the primary age with or without autism could all learn and play independently on this great online educational resource.

“No text, no instructions, but carefully designed visual environments and soundscapes make
Poisson Rouge Interactica’s productions resemble nothing else in the interactive world.” http://www.poissonrouge.com/

What do you think of Poisson Rouge? Can you recommend any other great online resources?

iPad App: Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box

I recently purchased the iPad app ‘Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box’ for £1.49 and I would recommend it to any parent of children with autism and/or severe learning difficulties or teacher using iPads in the classroom.

The app has 21 different scenes with abstract visuals and high quality audio which encourage the development and awareness of touch through open-ended exploration and play.

All of the scenes have different responses to taps, strokes and multiple finger and hand movements. When the screen is touched, the audio and visuals will play and will stop when the screen is not touched.

I have used a similar programme on a PC at school which could be used on the interactive whiteboard. I would put the blinds on the windows down and turn the lights off for maximum effect. However the programme was not multi finger or hand compatible and did not have different scenes which made the programme not as enjoyable as this iPad app.

Here is a video showing Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box in use.

 

Link to the iTunes store: http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/cause-effect-sensory-light/id533976433?mt=8

There are SO MANY great apps that can be used by children parents and teachers, can you recommend any?

Attention bucket for children with autism

After using the idea of an ‘attention bucket’ (which was passed on to me by colleagues at school) I looked further into the attention autism approach and found this inspiring video of a talk by the founder, Gina Davies.

The attention autism approach focuses on developing attention and listening skills and giving the children “an irresistible invitation to learn”.

Read more about Attention Autism here.

An attention bucket is a bucket full of motivating and exciting toys and gadgets which will be of high interest to the children. Gina suggests that the adult in front of the children with the attention bucket must be the most interesting thing in the room so everything else must be out of sight. I am currently thinking of new toys and gadgets to put into my attention bucket but this will depend on my new class. At the moment I have wind up moving toys, light up toys, a spinning top, toys that make noises and toys with balloons (e.g. balloon cars). Here are some of the items in my bucket:

The adult with the attention bucket demonstrates one toy at a time in front of the children, for example, winding up a toy snake and then watching the snake move. The reward must be intrinsic to the activity – the enjoyment of watching the snake.  If a child gets up out of their seat they are gently, non verbally guided back. This is to encourage attention and listening skills. Gina suggests using 5 toys in each short session. With my last class I usually had an attention bucket session once every morning and once every afternoon. Attention bucket activities are also good to use to refocus the group.

Related post: Attention Autism stage 1: attention bucket video and comments from creator Gina Davies

There is a lot of great information on Gina’s website Attention Autism

Many of my sensory attention bucket resources came from Sensory Toy Warehouse